07/02/2009

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Addressing High School Dropout: Taking a Look Inward The AT&T Foundation’s new report, “On the Front Lines of Schools,” sheds light on what educators, students, and parents believe has the greatest impact on high school drop out. The report shows a lot of finger pointing—and only one group actually accepting responsibility for the crisis. When asked about reasons why students are disengaged in school and drop out, district-level personnel point out the failures of principals, principals cite the failures of teachers, and teachers rattle off a laundry list of what parents do wrong. When questioned about the reasons why students chose to discontinue their educations before receiving a diploma, it is rare that the teacher responds “my lessons were boring and disengaging.” Instead, teachers are much more likely to blame parents and the home environment. Specifically, the report mentions that 74 percent of teachers and 69 percent of principals felt parents bore all or most of the responsibility for their children dropping out. Raise your hand if you’ve heard an assistant principal, head principal, dean, or headmaster say “students at my school dropped out because I was not involved in monitoring my staff as it implemented the curriculum.” Frequently, our school-level leaders point their fingers toward low teacher efficacy and poor classroom management. Show me the parent who states that his daughter did not receive her diploma because “I did not create space, time, and the expectation she complete her homework.” All too often, parents claim that they did not even know that their children were not on...
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Change or Die - A principal's dilemma In my travels to many school locations throughout the United States, I often find myself working with principals of schools that are struggling with issues related to making the organizational changes necessary to improve student achievement. A few weeks ago, I spent some time with a small group of principals in a Midwestern town. One principal’s comments have resonated in my mind ever since. This particular principal, who would like to remain anonymous, shared her struggles over the past three years as she has worked to turn around her school, as student achievement has declined. For the sake of this blog, we will call this principal Mrs. Jones. Principal Jones described to me a familiar scenario in regards to making instructional improvements in her elementary school. I asked her what she had done up to this point in reaction to her test scores declining and she explained a scenario that brings to mind a book I recently read called Change or Die (Deutschman, 2008). Mrs. Jones story, as you will see in the following paragraphs closely aligned with Deutschman’s “old” change paradigm. In this change paradigm, which is widely used in many fields, the leader of an organization uses Facts, Fear, and Force to bring about changes within the organization. Using Mrs. Jones’ example, she presents the Facts to the staff. Next, the principal uses Fear as leverage, and follows up with Force by letting the staff know that compliance will be expected and consequences will result for lack of...

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