Should we be ashamed of our ability to predict dropouts?

If we can predict fairly accurately whether a student is likely to drop out in 9th or 10th grade 5 or 6 years earlier, isn’t that a pretty big indictment of our inability as school systems (and a society) to do something about it?

12 Responses to “Should we be ashamed of our ability to predict dropouts?”

  1. Forget 4th or 5th grade… we can predict dropouts with reasonable success at BIRTH using variables like family income, race, education level of parents, etc. The reason why I don’t see that as an indictment of the school system is that we can’t change those variables. It simply points to the fact that dropouts are a societal problem, not just a school problem.

  2. Scott, I simply love your way of shaking dangerous irrelevance off the coconut tree, and the daring closing speech you gave at ASB un-plugged:
    “For those of you who think I don’t appreciate how far along you are, all I can say is that I’m not sure you appreciate how far you still have to go”

    However, your analogy could be turned around:
    Is the prediction of death rate in newborn babies an indictment of the inability of the health system to do something about it?

    Thanks again, and please keep firing…

  3. I’d have to agree with Mark, it is hard to indict the schools with not making up for factors like non-English speaking, poverty, poor parenting and drug/alcohol use in the home. Those thee measures are more likely to cause dropouts. Those are very expensive problems to deal with, especially when the kids are only in school for 8 hours, five days a week. They are in their homes nearly 130 more hours a week than school (only 40 hours a week). It is a huge task to overcome these factors. Schools should not be punished for NOT overcoming them, but rewarded when they do.

  4. Scott- great points as always, and I love the “fire” that is coming out with your recent talks and posts.

    I would argue we can predict pretty well in elementary school which kids are going to which colleges, and who isn’t going to college.

    Rob Ackerman

  5. Accepting that drop-outs are caused by factors beyond schools’ control seems like a cop out.

    Students don’t drop out *because* of their family income, or *because* of their race, or *because* of parents’ education.

    Students drop out because schools aren’t meeting their needs.

    The fact is, those factors that help us predict who will drop out only help us know whose needs aren’t being met – the real work comes in identifying what those needs are and figuring out how to meet them.

  6. Students do not drop out of school because of a variety of issues. To say that not meeting their needs in the classroom is a bit of a stretch I think. If we look at maslow hierarchy of needs many of these students are not getting the first two levels met at home. If a student is worried about basic survival and safety they can not and will not be able to focus in the classroom. This can not be fixed at school.

  7. I think that it would interesting to look at the factors necessary to change this. There are a ton of example of kids that could have been predicted to be dropouts at birth that are scientists, doctors, and teachers, but some series of things allowed for success. Let study those factors and do everything that we can to inject these things into the lives of our students. Nothing is inevitable.

  8. Before we continue to make more excuses for a school system that doesn’t meet the needs of our young people, please dust off the research on resiliency that says just one person CAN make a difference in the lives of kids who have seemingly every disadvantage…ONE person…if we can’t get one person to make connections with each and every child that may have more obstacles than the rest then shame on us!

    I once heard a similar predictor in the state of Texas…building prison beds based on 2nd grade at-risk numbers…Let’s stop the insanity and get out there and love those kids who may not have the advantages that most kids have…let’s engage them in our schools with technology and other effective instructional strategies…We can do it and we must stop waiting for the magic bullet…

    I’m going to start on Monday!

  9. While I understand the point of the post, let us not simply view the data to predict negative results several years from now… this seems rather pessimistic. Rather, let’s recognize that the information should be used to address issues in the present. No doubt there are so many factors that one is left head-a-spinning. Perhaps that is the problem, the problem of “one.” Educators acting as islands implementing effective strategies in the short time they have 25+ students in their room. There’s a “we” approach that is so often untapped.
    We should start on Monday!

  10. This post is so very interesting on so many levels. The knowledge that we can predict dropouts 5 years in advance (I agree with Mark and an even earlier dropout prediction). Since we can predict what is our role as educators to alter the prediction and what is the role of the parents, community, and society.
    The statement that “isn’t that a pretty big indictment of our inability as school systems (and a society) to do something about
    it?” is also interesting. So who is to blame? Comments above seem to state a little of both. The blame game is useless nothing gets done trying to target the blame. So jump to solutions: I think they are in play but changing as time goes by. Look at the early childhood programs that have been initiated both public and private. Look at the reading, math , and science methods and programs being tested, Look at the technology discussions and program beginnings. Now education needs to consolidate all these efforts into one large push. Now to finish with a statement made by Scott… Look at how much more still has yet to be done…

  11. Some say we need to forget those outside school issues and the excuses they support. The current “Race To The Top” legislation makes just that point. They point to cases where a few students overcome these issues based on one teacher. I agree to a point. I just don’t think we can make that happen for most, much less ALL students in these situations. I just don’t think it is sustainable.

    The KIPP model tries to overcome the problem by having students spend more time in school with “significant adult models” during the usual day but also on Saturdays. They also have teachers in the classroom for many more hours than is typical which seems like a great idea, but teacher burnout is a huge problem, and many are concerned about the narrow curriculum they tend to push … it seems those conditions are only OK for students of poverty … somehow other parents shun that kind of program.

    I would like to see models where the time spent might be the same (including Saturdays), but that sports, the arts, museum and camp visits and experiences fill much of that extra time. Seems like a rational way to spend some of the RttT money. As well as other possible models … but for some reason RttT is only interested in funding the models being promoted by the Billionaire Boys Club … the KIPP and similar models. Seems very shortsighted and odd for a program that promotes “innovation.”

  12. If children are a product of their environment, and it is decided by their teachers early-on that they will not succeed, does it not become a self-fulfilling prophecy?

    Over and over again we’ve seen that just one good teacher who cares about a child and puts effort into helping that child see their potential can make a huge impact on that child’s entire life.

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