Tuesday, September 16th, 2008...9:45 am

Engaged Students Don’t Drop Out.

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David L. Boliek
CEO, The Centers for Quality Teaching and Learning

I couldn’t sleep the other morning and was chasing down research on dropouts and dropout prevention. We all know there are umpty-hundred reasons young people drop out, but if you go to “The Silent Epidemic” where Civic Enterprises interviewed real, live dropouts who try to make it in the world, the young people are pretty candid. When you look at the school-type reasons, 69% say they were not motivated or inspired, but would like to have been (66%). Nearly half say their classes weren’t interesting. Seven in ten said they were confident they could have graduated if they had tried. Three-quarters said if they had to do it all over again, they would have stayed in school.

Then I see recommendations how to fix that and read suggestions such as raise the compulsory attendance age from 16 to 18. Oh, my. I wonder what schools will do with that many more bored students. But that’s another subject.

Then I came across a doctoral dissertation by William Kamm (March 2007) at Liberty University. In his work he summarized previous research (Jones, Valdez, Nowakowski and Rasmussen [1994]) which said: “Engaged learners are successfully responsible for their own learning. These students are able to define their own learning goals and evaluate their own achievement. Engaged learning includes collaboration around authentic connected tasks that take place with mentors and peers within school as well as with family members and others in the world out of school. The classroom becomes a knowledge-building learning community and the role of the teacher shifts from the traditional role of information giver to that of guide, facilitator and fellow learner. Students in engaged learning are encouraged to reflect upon their experiences and their discoveries, which is essential for the student in the role of cognitive apprentice.”

Engaged students don’t drop out. That’s what the National Dropout Prevention Center says. Engagement is the result of Active Learning, says NDPC. Active Learning, according to their definition, requires recognizing and using research-based instructional strategies.

The more teachers at all levels… Pre-K-12 and beyond… move into the role of guide, facilitator and fellow learner and away from the role of trying to shovel in as much knowledge as the tests require, the more engaged students can become. The more successful students will be.

Just my opinion — everybody’s got one.


1 Comment

  • Dave,
    I think you bring up and excellent point! Educators tend to focus on ‘dropouts’ from the perspective that students didn’t learn in school, and then they dropped out because they couldn’t make the grade.
    I have a good friend who has a niece who dropped out of school her senior year in high school. She had a Straight A average the year before, then, her senior year, she simply stopped going to classes on a regular basis.
    The school district told her that she needed to drop out because she had already missed too many days of school. Why is there no second chance for a kid like that? Sometimes kids face chaos at home, get pregnant, become fathers or just become disinterested in school and their future. Isn’t there an alternative to allowing that student to drop out?
    I know that here in Charlotte there are nonprofit groups who work to help get kids back in school and get their GED, but for Goodness Sake! Why can’t a kid with a straight A (college bound) average entering her senior year, get a second chance??
    Better yet, as you point out, why can’t these kids be motivated by their teachers and want to stay in school. Some one has to start caring and start working to keep all levels of students engaged and off the drop out rolls…

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