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Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016

Finding a solution to problem schools

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Without a doubt, education is one of the leading keys to success. In fact, it may well be the leading factor to determine success - if success is indeed measured in job and financial achievement. I also argue that other factors contributing to success or failure might include personal-responsibility, persistence and determination.

But for now let's focus on education. A new report out last week painted a fairly gloomy portrait of some problem schools in this nation. The report said there are 1,700 regular and vocational schools with a graduation rate that is well under 60 percent. That means at least four of 10 students who start their freshman year do not graduate. Most of the schools are located in low income areas and concentrated in southern states.

Recognizing the problem and arriving at a solution, however, are two completely different issues. We know the problem. We lack the solution.

Part of the problem is one I have been identifying in this column for years. The report from a South Carolina educator said, "we live in a state that culturally and traditionally has not valued a high school education."

But beyond some superficial ideas, this new report offers scant advice on just how to change this education gap. I find that's the outcome of most national reports unfortunately.

The recommendations for change focus almost entirely on how schools report their drop-out rates. These aspects are emphasized so we can get a better understanding of just how widespread the problem actually is. But in terms of making recommendations for change, the report is fairly silent.

One portion of the report with some merit talks about team teaching. This process allows a small group of teachers to work with the same students. It better allows the teachers to know the individual problems of the students and it seems there is some merit in this plan.

These problem schools have been termed "Dropout Factories." And collectively they represent 12 percent of all schools. No one questions they are a problem today and will remain a problem unless some substantial change comes along.

But one final note. I take great issue with one of those responsible for the report when he says: "If you're born in a neighborhood or town where the only high school is one where graduation is not the norm, how is this living in the land of equal opportunity?"

Let me answer that. Equal opportunity does in fact exist in these schools and all others. What is not equal is the foundation provided at home, the resources available in that home and the drive and determination to succeed. No government, no program and no policy can mandate caring parents or driven students. That comes from within and it's not the fault of any school or teacher - regardless of the geography.

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Michael Jensen
Michael Jensen