Some of the Surprising Reasons Why Students Drop Out of School

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It is sad to hear that “Math, in particular, seemed to be the academic trip wire where they stumbled on and never recovered from” and that “Algebra was often the culprit”.

Students and Social IssuesDropouts

December 19, 2017 • 10:20AM
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Some of the Surprising Reasons Why Students Drop Out of School

By Cindy Long

why students drop out of school“Why We Drop Out”: Understanding and Disrupting Student Pathways to Leaving School by Deborah L. Feldman, ‎ Antony T. Smith,‎ and Barbara L. Waxman, recounts the compelling stories of kids who explain in their own words why they decided to leave school.

NEA Today spoke with Feldman to talk about what she learned from her interviews with the more than 50 young people who dropped out of high school.

What surprised you most about your findings in your interviews with the students?

Deborah Feldman: What really surprised us was that the overwhelming majority of the youth we interviewed really liked elementary school. Another surprise was how many were willing to blame themselves and how much they deeply regretted their actions that led to dropping out. Finally, what surprised me personally was the lack of interventions. We never know the full story, only the kids’ perspective, but very few recalled having any official interventions for truancy, or interventions from parents or the school.

They seemed to be forgotten by the schools or consciously ignored. We don’t know, but we suspect that in some districts, if a kid isn’t doing well and is a problem, it’s easier to let them slip away. Around the country, districts are cash-strapped and don’t have the resources to follow up on kids with numerous absences.

What was a common reason for dropping out?

DF: There were very distinct patterns we see with kids starting to pull away usually in middle school. The through line in many of their stories was some kind of academic challenge that undermined their faith in themselves as learners, that then led to helplessness and hopelessness about their ability to be a student, which was their primary job in life. Math, in particular, seemed to be the academic trip wire where they stumbled on and never recovered from. Algebra was often the culprit. They developed an “I’m no good at math” sensibility and when they started believing they weren’t able to succeed, they started skipping.

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An Insider’s Take on Assessment: It May Be Worse Than You Thought

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An Insider’s Take on Assessment: It May Be Worse Than You Thought

By Erik Gilbert January 12, 2018

Katherine Streeter for The Chronicle

No doubt many of you will spend part of the month of January looking over assessment material from the fall semester. Equipped with some pre- and post-tests, a couple of artifacts, a rubric, a curriculum map, and, perhaps, a little bourbon, you will study your data carefully, make a few quick inferences and then identify a minor problem that you can address by making equally minor changes to your course or program.

However, you may find that upon close examination the data don’t seem to be saying anything at all to you. You may even be tempted to just make something up. If you do go that route, it’s probably because you have concluded that assessment data do not tell you anything useful about your program, so there is no harm in fudging your analysis of the data.

If that was you, don’t worry. It turns out that the assessment program your college imposed on you was probably never going to improve anything. A new article by an assessment insider explains why this is so and suggests that assessors have known for sometime now that assessment does not work.

The article, in Intersection, the journal of the Association for the Assessment of Learning in Higher Education is by David Eubanks, assistant vice president for assessment and institutional effectiveness at Furman University and a board member of the association. In it Eubanks details the methodological flaws that are inherent to assessment and argues that because of the broad scale on which assessment is done, few of the methods employed by social-science research are used.

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