Bitter Sweet Time of Year

Graduation is upon us. It is a bittersweet time of year. It is always exciting for our seniors who are leaving us and beginning a new chapter in their lives. Our underclassmen are excited to have a break and be able to get away from school for awhile. The staff looks forward to a little down time to recharge batteries, do some professional development and plan for the new year. So many people ask me if I am relieved to have 2009-10 in the books. I can honestly answer that this is not a time of year that I look forward to. Don’t get me wrong. I do like to have a little down time myself, but it does not take me long to miss the sounds of students and staff in the building. There is plenty to do to close the books on a school year and get ready for the next. In fact it seems as though summer is usually a rush to get things in place for the next year. Graduation time also makes me think of those members of this senior class that did not make it. I believe the biggest tragedy of our public school system is that so many fail to finish. We have a dropout problem in Paris and we must work to see more students graduate on time. I wrote this in a blog some time back and I am still searching for some answers:

The other day I was talking to a student who had decided to withdraw from school. The student told me that he did not understand why he had to take certain subjects and that sitting in class after class, day after day, learning things he would never utilize was a waste of his time. He told me he was going to get a GED (I made him promise, although follow- through on promises like that from other students are rarely kept…in the short term anyway) and do the same thing his father does for a living. I always feel a sense of failure when a student walks away from school and does not finish. I know students have always dropped out, my own father never finished high school, but today it is critical for young men and women to get the proper instruction and master a core set of skills to become employable and remain employable in today’s global economy. We have too many students today simply walking out the school doors without a diploma. According to a study completed at Johns Hopkins University, one in ten American high schools is considered a drop out factory. Paris High School is not one of them, but still we lose too many. Why do we lose so many high school students nation wide? There are multiple reasons why a student decides to leave school. This article does a good job of detailing some causes. In summary:

Students drop out for complex reasons. On the surface, students seem to drop out because of poor grades or the need to work. In reality, students often leave because they haven’t connected at home, school or in the community to someone who can set higher standards and help them to achieve them.

What can we do? There is no easy answer, but I do know that we must look at this problem in depth and make solving our local drop out situation a high priority. For every student that drops out there a least two more that consider leaving but remain in school with very low levels of motivation. Nashville Tennessee has had some success through a wide coalition called Alignment Nashville. Although Paris is much smaller than Nashville and the local resources may be tighter, but we have no excuse for not trying. Our community has shown that when we come together to solve a problem, we can have success! The CAMA organization has shown that it is possible for the community to “throw in” from all corners of the county to solve a problem with deep “roots” We must realize that this is more than a school problem. It is a community problem and to solve it the solutions must come from both inside and outside the school walls.

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