ARE SOME SOBERING STATISTICS:
1990 to 2000, high school graduation rates dropped in all but 7 states.
Among the leading nations in the world, the US has slipped
to #10 for the number of children who complete high school.
difference in annual pay for dropouts versus high school grads has increased dramatically .
for 2006, a fourth of the enrolled students did not graduate on time.
What’s going on?
Okay, in Colorado,
the CEA is quick to explain that their accounting methods don’t include home-schooled individuals nor those who earn GED’s.
Still, 25% is a phenomenally
poor rate. And I’m sure you’re aware that foster kids’ graduation rates are worse than that.
There’s more than
enough blame to go around:
Less-than-committed teachers who aren’t even at a high school proficiency level in
subjects outside their forte. (THIS IS NOT EVERY TEACHER)
School systems which emphasize sports and extra-curriculars over traditional subject matter
Limited funding for education, and poor choices of where that funding is used
Disconnected parents who leave their children to educate themselves and never get involved
with the schools.
Falling standards instead of standards which increase to compete with other nations. ( I
read that the US ranks something like 23rd in math
I’m sure there
are more, but these give us a pretty good idea of the scope of the problem. We
know that kids who have a lower education level are more likely to get into trouble with the police. More likely to have children
out of wedlock. More likely to fail.
So what do we do? Well,
if you’re a parent ( foster, bio, grandparent) you ADVOCATE for your child. You get pro-active, because if you don’t,
NO ONE WILL.
HOW CAN YOU TELL IF YOUR CHILD IS AT RISK TO DROP OUT?
Look at his absences.
If he has missed school 20 times or more in a school year
(check your child’s
school records if you are a foster parent) he is at risk to drop out. Look at
his prior grades, too. If there are lots of “D’s” and “F’s” he is probably getting frustrated
with school and may decide to give up. And experts tell us that frequent moves between school districts and “acting
out” are good predictors of whether or not children will drop out. (DUH! And that’s just about every
Kids who drop out are
the ones with poor self esteem and little support for the worth of an education. They have poor peer support (have you ever
been to court with a foster child who is in legal trouble? It is a fraternity. The kids greet each other with grins and greetings
nearly unintelligible to the uninitiated. )
The drop-out kids are
the ones who have been involved in substance abuse. If they haven’t used, their parents have.
HEY! That is a portrait
of our kids.
SO HERE’S WHERE
YOU COME IN. YOU GET TO BE THE SUPER HERO.
First, check out your
child’s learning capacities. I don’t mean if he is delayed or not, though that is a factor. I mean have his vision
checked, and his hearing. Is he a tactile learner or does he do better when he listens to instruction? Does he have a problem
with accepting authority, and does he need to be in counseling to get added support?
There is a Federal program
which can help you request special intervention for your children. (Check out this article) Of course, the earlier the intervention, the less chance there is that a
child will drop out.
But what if your child
is a teen…an older child already toying with the idea of leaving school?
First, keep the lines
of communication open between you and your child, and between you and the school. If your school offers a parent website where
you can keep abreast of assignments and grades, and from which you can email the teachers, SO MUCH THE BETTER. But even a great tool like this is not helpful if you don’t access it.
If there is no website,
get in the habit of calling once a month or so to find out if your child is missing assignments or is falling behind because
of absences. Most “system kids” are fatalistic and are easily discouraged.
Watch who your child
associates with. I don’t mean to outlaw certain friendships. If you do this, your child’s bonds with that person
will grow stronger just because you oppose them. (But if your child is associating
with known drug and/or alcohol abusers, you HAVE to intervene.) If your child
has other drop-outs or low-achievers for friends, insist that he spend time with other people as well. Take your child on
outings…paintballing, go-carts, golfing, and invite the kids YOU choose. OFFER
ALTERNATIVES to the friendships you don’t like and nourish new relationships.
REWARD GOOD GRADES. Maybe
reward staying in school. I’ve read about programs which offer incentives like college scholarships to kids who complete
their educations. Or cars. If you can’t afford something like that, why not tell your child something like, “If
you stay in school, I will co-sign a loan with you so that you can get a car when you graduate.”
Or if that is something
you don’t want to do (think credit scores) get inventive. Find out what your child really wants and figure out a way
to help him achieve his goals IF HE STAYS IN SCHOOL.
And if nothing else works,
realize that a GED is better than nothing. AND there are some other vocational programs
out there which can give your child some tools to help him get ahead.
The most important ingredient
to your child’s success in school is you. And maybe some of our children are already wired to drop out and run away.
We can’t save all of them.
But if each one of us
saves one, what a difference we’d make in his world!