How to Stop Students from Dropping Out

Want to know how to stop a student from dropping out of school? Ask them.

At the center of a new cauldron of education reform discussion is an emerging debate about the role of student engagement in school improvement. This conversation concerns itself with the levels of phsycologicial, social, emotional, and intellectual investment students possess for learning, otherwise known as “student engagement.”

My interest in the conversation comes from the central hypothesis that emerges from my work in schools: When students are engaged as partners in school improvement, school improvement will be more successful. The measure of what school improvement is and what success means are related, but different, discussions. What is central here is the direct relationship between student engagement in school improvement, and its effects on school improvement.

Which brings me to the title of this blog. Engaging students as partners in school improvement has dozens, if not hundreds, of corralary effects: Simply extend the descriptor of students in the hypothesis, and the onion peels itself. For instance:

  • When drop-out students are engaged as partners in school improvement…
  • When African American students are engaged as partners in school improvement…
  • When rural students are engaged as partners in school improvement… (and soforth)

…school improvment will be more successful. This is a powerful formula with many nuansces. However, it is important to acknowledge the possibilities therein. With regard to classroom practice, how does identifying a student as a “drop-out” affect engaging them as partners? When research is central, the questions might revolve around what partnership is, and what the “success” of school improvement is. For students, it may be a question of identifying who is engaged and how those students benefit. For community advocates, I believe
the question of what “success” means in school must be answered.

That’s my fodder for the evening. Let me know what you think.

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