Monday, May 04, 2009

Put The Students First . . .

Per today's OD, New York Mills is considering raising the mandatory school attendance age to 17 from the current 16. Supt. Houghton hopes this will get more kids to graduate.

Encouraging more students to graduate is certainly a good thing. The High School Diploma undoubtedly is the ticket that will open many doors in the job market . . . Employers often won't look at prospective employees without one, because they presume that the diploma represents a certain level of competency.

But competency is JUST A PRESUMPTION. How many times have you heard stories about high school and even college graduates who cannot perform basic math or writing tasks? This has become a too common experience for many.

Now NYM wants to force students who would otherwise drop out to stay an extra year. . . . Will it be an extra year of knowledge? . . . or an extra year of group activities? . . . or maybe an extra year of indoctrination? Other than an admission ticket to potential job interviews, what exactly will the student get out of an extra year of school --- and is it worth staying for?

The student is actually in the best position to answer this question because he or she is living the school experience day to day. Sixteen was always thought to be the age where students were capable of making such decisions. Are NYM students different from students elsewhere? Is the school district saying that 16 year old students in NYM are not capable of deciding for themselves?

Students drop out when they do not see value remaining in school. That, in turn, says something about the school district's performance. . . . and it is the reflection on school performance that seems to be what is motivating Ms. Houghton.

Raise the mandatory school age, decrease the drop out rate, and make the school district look better.

However, students who are effectively held against their will often become disruptive, interfering with other students' education. Students who do not see the value in education may need to be out in the "real world" for awhile to appreciate it. . . . and when they do, they will work that much harder when they come back for their GED and actually learn something. Some students learn better outside of the public school system.

NYM should think less about raising the mandatory age, and more about what may be driving its drop out rate.

Put the students, not the school district's reputation, first.


Greens and Beans said...

This is a superb post. Adjusting the dropout age to seventeen years old will NOT accomplish anything. Strikeslip is correct. If the student feels that the confines and structure of the public school system is too cumbersome to endure, then it is time to depart. Dropout rates be dammed! The school district should allow them to dropout at sixteen years old.

The students who remain in school against their will have the propensity to become disruptive to the ebb and flow of learning process of others. Why would any school system want to retard the already stringent learning process of the entire student body with a few unruly students who feel unwarranted by being confined to a classroom against their will? The typical high school dropout soon learns that they have made a terrible mistake by dropping out of school. The sooner the dropout discovers their mistake the sooner they can rectify their absence of any worthwhile employability. The school district should not prolong this process.

American society has changed over the last twenty years. Twenty years ago, the high school dropout could find an adequate paying job in one of the many manufacturing plants that were located in just about every Village, Town or City. But today, these manufacturing jobs have all but disappeared from the American landscape. Let’s face it, today anyone without a high school diploma or a college degree is essentially unemployable. The U.S. Armed Services requires its recruits to have at least a GED before they are acceptable enough to be considered for military service. Today’s school dropout relegates themselves to a lifetime of mediocrity at best, and a real grueling struggle to earn a living at worst.

In the fashion business there is a saying that “one can never be too thin.” In the twenty-first America job market the saying is “one can never be too qualified.” This is where education can make the difference with overcoming this encumbrance. The school district policy should not further handicap the dropout student by prolonging their return to twenty-first century reality.

onjeesun said...

Ironically, the majority of schools stopped putting the students first about the same time No Child Left Behind was put into place. The schools now care more about the appearance of doing well than actually doing well and in the end it's the students that pay the price. Putting appearances before substance is a reflection of our society as a whole. Meanwhile people are either content to play along or too lazy or apathetic to bother standing up for what they know to be right. I have attempted to fight the system only to be labeled anti-education. I guess when folks don’t have solid facts to debate with they resort to name calling.