The Personal Side of the Graduation Rate

cross posted on LeaderTalk

What if there isn’t a darned thing I can do to prevent some of our high school students from dropping out? What if there really isn’t any way to leave no child behind?

Here are some of my statistics of our G-Town drop-outs from September 2004 through January 2007.

  • 40% signed out, 60% just stopped showing up
  • 45% are white, 53% Native American, 2% Hispanic
  • 49% are male, 51% are female
  • 58% of the white students are male, 65% of the Native American students are female
  • 40% are aged 17, 30% are aged 18, 31% are in grade 10, 25% in grade 11, and 25% in grade 12
  • 33% are passing and on track when they drop out, 53% have major attendance issues
  • 77% were retained, 52% once, 43% twice, 5% three times
  • 56% live in poverty

What does that data tell me that will truly help me change the course of those students’ lives and get them to graduation?

You can see that 53% of my drop outs are Native American while only 30% of my population is Native American. A significant problem. We have a tri-district “Native Voices” initiative, in which we study our Native American students by meeting with our kids one on one and in small groups, face to face, to talk about their learning. Our mission is to learn more about our Native American students so that we can make our schools the best possible places they can be, working together to understand what works and what doesn’t work.

We’ve worked together as a team, three neighboring districts who all share the students of the Cattaraugus Territory. We are administrators, counselors, psychologists, Title VII support personnel, and parents. It’s been an incredible experience, one ripe with opportunity to improve culture, climate, and pedagogy. 

We’ve realized lots of things that we can do better and our next meetings will focus on implementing change. I think we’ve already made great gains in climate and culture. Our discipline reports and daily attendance support this premise.

But what about those students who remain unaffected by all of the positive changes, who despite us and our endeavors, will choose to leave?

We need another alternative for them. And not typical alternative education that’s just sending our kids who won’t play by the rules to another location, same time, same days, same Bat channel. We need real options for kids who won’t/can’t succeed as we are today. We need a different time, a different delivery mode, a new approach, a real solution, a different system.

So we enter year two of Native Voices, knowing that we’ve figured out some ways to make our schools better for the students we keep. Knowing that we’ve got to find a solution for those who walk. There isn’t anyone who can dispute that every child desperately needs a diploma to meet with any kind of economic success.

Here’s my problem. I’m a change agent. If you’ve read this blog or worked with me, you know this. I’m constantly thinking about what we can do better and I work hard to make meaningful change for our students, faculty, and community. I want our students to succeed and I aim to climb the “rankings”.

But it’s so darned slow. Our results on the State measures are changing only incrementally. We’re a school in good standing making adequate yearly progress, with a 73% graduation rate for all students while the state standard is 55%.  But my personal standard as the administrator most responsible is 95-100% and no “progress is adequate” for the students who are still dropping out.

How long does it take to see significant results? How long does it take until every kid sticks with me until the diploma?

  1. Pingback: EdBlog Watch: When Leaders Talk | ASCD Inservice

  2. Kim Many schools have tried different alternative learning such as starting later or evening programs. another aspect we try here is school three days a week and work the others. this helps the students see that staying in school can help them in a work force. Also as an educator of these students i try to give examples in my teaching they can actually see being used in the “real world”. Amanda

  3. Congratulations for your efforts for students. I like your, “Failure is not an option” attempt. Perhaps you meant to ask, “How long does it take until every child graduates?” rather than sticks with you? Their timing and ours as teachers don’t necessarily fit. You’ve probably met them too, those who quit school, because it got in the way of their education. I can respect their strategy. I tried to follow that pattern also, but my parents wisely stopped me. Now, I encourage young people to learn faster with online programs than school curricula schedules. Seriously, this is another aspect of diversity. Isn’t it great to have so many options?

  4. hi ms. mortiz how are you doing i’m fine. hey guess what i got my GED and i am a CNA certified nursing assistant. ace huh? it really ain’t a comment on what y’all were writing but it’s something. well im gunna do a whole lot of sleepin now that im done. k tell ms.westerheide for me plz and thanks ill try and call or stop by some time k?

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