Thursday, March 19, 2015

A Tale of Two Dropouts

In my history as a teacher, principal and now curriculum director, I have come across many students who were unsuccessful on standardized tests. Those students received additional time and support from outstanding teachers, but they continued to be unsuccessful on standardized tests. In Texas, standardized tests are pretty important, as you can't graduate from high school unless you're successful on standardized tests.  That's why I'm sad to say that I have seen many students become dropouts simply because they could not pass a standardized test.

Today I'd like to tell you about two students that I worked closely with in my career, Adriana and Joseph (not their real names but they are real students). Joseph was a student from a two-parent middle class family with lots of support to get through life, however Joseph did not graduate from high school. It wasn't because of his failure to pass classes, which were a challenge.  It wasn't because Joseph was a lazy or apathetic kid.  Joseph failed to graduate because he failed to pass 1 of the 4 standardized tests. 

Adriana was a great student in middle school and high school, yet she was never able to pass a standardized test. She had language issues, and learning academics was a challenge for her.  Unlike Joseph, Adriana came from a single-parent home where her mother did not speak English. She was on free lunch, and she had to be home every day to take care of her brothers and sisters while her mother worked her second job.  While her background was completely different from Joseph, her high school result was exactly the same. She failed to graduate from high school because she failed to pass two of four standardized tests. 

Two Dropouts - Two Different Results

While these two students failed to graduate, what happened after that is the real difference.  Joseph's parents poured lots of resources and support into his education that helped him earn his GED,  Additionally, Joseph's parents enrolled him into a technical school where he earned his degree as a welder, where he now has a welding job making good money.

For Adrianna the result wasn't quite the same.  I saw Adrianna this morning at a fast food restaurant where she served me my breakfast.  When I asked her about school, she told me she was not in school because she didn't have time to go get her GED.  In short she didn't have the external resources to recover from her failure to graduate like Joseph did, and in her 20's, the chance of her going back to school decreases every day.

How do we Eradicate Poverty?

Socioeconomic status plays and has always played a massive role in education, but it has an even bigger impact on a dropout's efforts to recover from the devastating failure of not earning a diploma.  At its core, a complete public education is the difference between poverty and avoiding it. 
  Educators and legislators must work together to generate many options for students to demonstrate their readiness to graduate from high school and preparation for college and career. Not every student will be successful on a standardized test; therefore, they must have other options to demonstrate college and career readiness. 

The great news is that there is legislation in Texas right now to help students that struggle with standardized tests. Senate Bill 149 is under discussion right now, and it would allow schools greater flexibility in helping students demonstrate that mastery.    My hope is that legislators will continue to listen to educators.   They must understand that students of poverty will not return to get their diploma once that opportunity has been missed.

All students are influenced by their environment, and students of poverty who fail to graduate have a greater chance of being influenced by their environment to never return to school.  Once that decision has been made, a dropout will have a better chance of falling into the pipeline to imprisonment than earning a diploma.  We will never be able to reduce poverty with legislation.  The only way that we will ever eradicate the cycle of poverty is to educate our way out of it.  Legislators must pass legislation that gives schools greater flexibility to help all students earn a diploma that will serve as a springboard into a college and career future. 

1 comment:

  1. Excellent account of undesired outcomes for two students who acquired the clock hours but did not graduate from high school. Our students are equipped with unique talents and must be afforded opportunities to showcase their individual learning and talents. Standardized tests provide a measure of learning, but only one measure, and equating the test data results to students' potential for future success is misleading. Let us make the changes that are needed so that we can propel our students toward high school realization and their future success.