My involvement in the American Graduate broadcast with our local public media station WNIN caused me to reflect on a number of questions with regards to secondary education and the high school drop out crisis. I have more questions than answers, but I thought I would bring them to you in this space, our IAACE Blog, for discussion. As educators, I believe conversation around tough questions like these can serve to help us clarify our purpose and open the lines of communication for collaboration where there was previously misunderstanding. After all, we are in this together, to support and equip “American Graduates”.
Question #1: Why do high school students drop out of educational environments that often have state of the art resources, climate controlled facilities, multiple teachers, tutors, counselors, meals, and transportation and then decide to attend an adult education class in the basement of an old musty building with nothing but a few workbooks, paper, pencil, and a part time teacher?
Question #2: How often do secondary teachers or administrators communicate with adult educators (and vice verse) to find out their perspective on why students drop out or what strategies seemed to make a difference in student success? (Nearly 1 in 4 students entering high school in Indiana do not graduate.*)
Question #3: In all my years in adult education I have never met an adult educator who recruited a high school student. So, why are adult educators sometimes criticized for or somehow connected to the reason why students drop out of high school?
I told you I had more questions than answers, but that doesn’t stop me from trying to answer my own questions. Here goes:
My Thoughts to Question #1: I’ll cite Harvard’s Pathways to Prosperity (pg 10) for the first part of my answer: “In other words, they didn’t believe high school was relevant, or providing a pathway to achieving their dreams.” Second, over the years, students have shared with me that they perceived a level of respect in adult education that was not evident in their previous setting. This may have more to do with the pressures associated with the system than an issue of respect.
My Thoughts to Question #2: I was asked this question during a portion of my interview with WNIN. My answer was, “Not as often as I would like.” However, there was one year when as an adult educator I was invited to our district wide administrative meetings. But just like this blog post, I think I asked too many questions.
My Thoughts to Question #3: Because students who drop out end up in adult education and often find that elusive pathway to their dreams, perhaps it can seem that adult educators recruit high school students. To be fair, many secondary educators recognize the role adult education plays in providing a viable option for some young adults and have even partnered with adult ed.
One of the goals of this blog is to generate discussion and open a dialogue with educators, trainers, and students at all levels. Please don’t hesitate to share your thoughts or invite your students or colleagues to join the discussion. It might be helpful to others in the discussion if you would note the question to which you are responding.
I leave you with one final question: What can adult education, secondary education, higher education, and workforce trainers do to enhance our partnership, to learn from one another, and find solutions to the high school drop out crisis?
*2013 Grad Nation Index provided by Johns Hopkins University’s Everyone Graduates Center