One of the benefits of having a break from programs is that there is time to assess how the previous year went and then make adjustments as needed for the following year. This year some of those adjustments will be due to a change in volunteer structure (no interns serving at our downtown location) as well as transportation challenges (a replacement van still needs to be purchased). Despite these adjustments that might appear to be obstacles, youth in the community are excited that programs will begin soon (“When are you starting?” is a common question as I’ve been out and about), and we know that the God of the loaves and fishes is more than capable of supplying the needs of the ministry.
I came across a book, Dropping Out: Why Students Drop Out of High School and What Can Be Done About It, in the new release section at the library and have begun reading it. This is not a book recommendation since I don’t know that I’ve even conquered 10% of its pages yet, but it contains a wealth of information from statistics to real-life stories of inner-city kids to an examination of the American education system as a whole.
I don’t know that I’ll agree with all of the author’s solutions, but one aspect certainly rings true from the book description below: It is best to reach the most vulnerable students during their early elementary years.
In Martha Snell Nicholson’s poem The Bent Twig, there is this line: He listened well to what I said, but he was hardened in the mold. The twig was bent, the tree inclined. There does come a time when the course has been charted, when the hardness of heart sets in, when other things compete louder and faster for the attention. Are these youth hopeless? With God, never. But is it harder for them to make a change? For many, yes.
The vast majority of kids in the developed world finish high school—but not in the United States. More than a million kids drop out every year, around 7,000 a day, and the numbers are rising. Dropping Out offers a comprehensive overview by one of the country’s leading experts, and provides answers to fundamental questions: Who drops out, and why? What happens to them when they do? How can we prevent at-risk kids from short-circuiting their futures?
Students start disengaging long before they get to high school, and the consequences are severe—not just for individuals but for the larger society and economy. Dropouts never catch up with high school graduates on any measure. They are less likely to find work at all, and more likely to live in poverty, commit crimes, and suffer health problems. Even life expectancy for dropouts is shorter by seven years than for those who earn a diploma.
Rumberger advocates targeting the most vulnerable students as far back as the early elementary grades. And he levels sharp criticism at the conventional definition of success as readiness for college. He argues that high schools must offer all students what they need to succeed in the workplace and independent adult life. A more flexible and practical definition of achievement—one in which a high school education does not simply qualify you for more school—can make school make sense to young people. And maybe keep them there.