Watching the Red Flags…..Dropout Prevention
Today, our school’s Assistant Principal organized some back to school meetings for students who had attendance issues last year. Our school truancy officers attended to make sure everything was in place for these kids to improve their attendance this year and their names were shared with our staff so everyone can be mindful and prevent further problems. When the idea was shared with me, I thought about a forum I attended two years ago where the panel was made up of students who had dropped out of high school and an ASCD article that I have distributed to our staff in the past that focuses on the early warning signs students exhibit. While failure in 6th grade classes, retention in middle school, or poor attendance are not a guarantee that a young person will not make it through 12th grade, research indicates there is a strong correlation between these factors and whether or not our students make it through 12 grade.
One panelist, a young man, said that he dropped out of school because “no one cared if I came to school or not.” When pressed further about whether or not it would have made a difference if a teacher would have said something to him each day, he added that had someone taken notice that he was there and said something as simple as “hi” or “glad to see you today” that he probably would have kept going to school.
My point is that the students on our list today have thrown up a red flag about their future success. As a school, we must take a moment to identify the kids on the list and make an effort to mention that you’re happy to see them at school whenever you think of it. If they miss a few days, we need to let our administrators know, or have a teacher, give them a call and ask them when they’ll be returning. In the coming months, we’ll need to pay close attention to kids with failing grades in their classes for the same reasons.
Not graduating from high school in today’s economy dooms a young person to a life below the poverty line. A headline in today’s newspaper indicated that as many as 1 in 6 are now living in poverty, and that the rate continues to rise. While we must focus on the here and now, we must also keep in mind that research tells us about warning signs we must recognize. The sooner, the better.