Spinning Wheels Got to Go Round

What if all of our efforts in the area of school improvement only make things better for the kids who would have stayed with us anyway? Maybe our mastery level of 85-100 is improving while our drop out rate remains consistent because we just keep doing what already doesn’t work for our drop outs, only we’re doing it better?

I’m serious. We’ve made improvements in G-Town. Maybe none of them changed anything for our drop-outs.

  • 1. Implementation of nine additional electives
  • 2. Implementation of Honors classes in English, Biology, and Social Studies
  • 3. Elimination of Pre-Regents classes (which basically said to kids “we think you’re too stupid to handle Regents” and wasted a year)
  • 4. Implementation of college courses, taught here by my teachers for no charge to our students, seven classes total
  • 5. Restructuring of our Academic Intervention Services (AIS), which kids were getting one period out of six in help–now it’s subject specific every other day, with Regents review courses AND brought back remedial reading and math, which targets kids with more severe problems and had been eliminated when AIS came in.
  • 6. New bell schedule for next year that adds four minutes to every class period, the equivalent of 19 more days of instruction per year.
  • 7. Weighted grades to encourage those students most concerned about class rank to take more challenging classes.
  • 8. The Panther Power program, with the G-Town Show Down, the best day of school all year, ask any kid–a positive schoolwide behavior management program.
  • 9. The Taste of Gowanda, a cooking contest to bring our community members into our school for something positive and fun.
  • 10. The Generosity Drive, kids and faculty raising money for local families at Christmas.
  • 11. A huge K-12 literacy initiative
  • 12. Native Voices, our year long, tri-district study of Native American children and drop outs
  • 13. Implementation of August regents review and administration.
  • 14. Summer School 2007 for credit recovery to keep kids moving on grade level. (Speaks to the retention question)
  • 15. An All School Awards Picnic
  • 16. Changing schedule next year to do English and Science on the block

Maybe all of those things just made it better for all of our kids who will graduate anyway. A worthy endeavor, I know, resulting in a better school, a great climate, happy faculty, staff, and students. Still losing 25 kids per year. Despite us. What factors indicate that we’re going to lose them, when are they known, and how do we break the path for each of these kids? Is it already determined for many when they get to me? Different interventions, sooner? Again, need a different set of wheels for these kids. Not sure what they look like yet. But we’ll get there.

  1. Wow. How far G-Town has come!THANK YOU KIM AND STAFF! However, there is always room for improvement. I think we need to get really creative. We know why kids drop out of school,most have jobs and the paycheck looks really nice. The challenge is, what can we do differently that we haven’t already done? Some ideas:Look “out of the box” start school at 9:00am or later, allow students to take their classes and leave? I truly understand the day to day challenges educators are faced with.

  2. Yes, many of the above improvements have been for students who would have stayed any way. However, there are more of them than the ones that drop out. Gowanda is trying to build its reputation and turn out graduates that are ready for college and the future. All of the additions to the schedule are part of that. I have to agree with Kelly that school just isn’t for everyone. Some kids get jobs and see the fact that they are making money as more attractive than sitting in class all day. Many students are unable to see the big picture that illustrates a high school diploma is important.

  3. Kelly–I always appreciate your thoughtful comments to this blog. We do interview our students, as they attempt to drop out, but I would say it’s more of an intervention than an interview in our strong efforts to dissuade them from the drop out decision. We also have a tri-district initiative where we’ve been interviewing our Native American students, for whom the drop out rate is the highest of any minority, on a number of issues from instructional strategies that work for them to attendance to reasons for dropping out. I would say that 95% of the time these interviews identify factors in the child’s life that are well beyond my area of control, for which we try to find solutions/connections to services who can help, but which seem too insurmountable to the students. Most often they identify factors from outside of school that are heavily influencing their decisions and even more often those influences are destructive. Kim

  4. For each student that drops out the reason is a bit different. For some reason, the appeal to leave school is more than the reasons to stay. Have you tried interviewing or finding students that dropped out to ask them why? Don’t give up – you are doing great things and should be proud of how you’re helping those that decide to stay. And hey, school isn’t for everyone.

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