My wife teaches at a local public middle school. I have several friends that teach at the local public high schools. The big stink at both at the moment is graduation numbers. One of the three high schools in town has a graduation rate of about 78% while the other two are in the low 80’s. The teachers are being pressured to increase those numbers. I am not quite sure why this is the teachers responsibility. It would seem to me that the only real method that teachers have to increase graduation rates is to make classes easier and thereby inflate grades. Teachers cannot re-write the curriculum to make it more “inspirational” and “relevant”, that decision, especially in public schools, is a committee thing that takes years of meetings and indecision. Would “inspirational” and “relevant” even affect graduation rates? Here is an alternative suggestion. Put the onus on the students and the parents. If high school graduation is so critical then let’s write some laws to increase graduation percentages. For the parents: if your child/children have a failing grade your taxes will be increased 50% for that year. This increase will help alleviate the tax income lost to the State when that student is unable to get a job other than minimum wage. The problem with this is that the parents of most dropouts are low income themselves. That 50% may not account for much. For the students: if you drop out you will not be eligible for welfare or any other State supported aid because you deliberately reduced the possibility of make a decent income and therefore of paying your fair share in taxes. Would these laws fly? I can imagine the ACLU going just plain wild. The right wing would scream something about another attempt by big government to control the lives of citizens and the left wing would scream about the government interfering with a citizen’s right to be an uneducated worthless contribution to society. The quiet majority would say “Do it!” But they are usually quiet. Still, it would be fun to try. In reality, what affect does a teacher have on the dropout numbers? Does being boring and dry really make a kid quit school? How much affect does an “inspirational” teacher have on students that would be inclined to dropout? I think if we really got down to it we would find that the school or teachers have minimal affect on the dropout rate. The need to get a job to pay for rent and the car, “true love”, pregnancy, the need to get out and live (usually at minimum wage) as opposed to sitting the classroom six hours a day would seem to have a greater affect. None of these are factors that a teacher can really, except in very rare cases, affect. If the dropout rate is high or higher that desired, look outside the school where the important things in a kid’s life are taking place.
Education – whose responsibility is it?