– New survey exposes school staff members’ lack of knowledge
A remarkable report of a recent survey of teachers and principals, “ON THE FRONT LINES OF SCHOOLS, Perspectives of Teachers and Principals on the High School Dropout Problem,” has just been released by Civic Enterprises. It shows that our school staffers have some very disturbing holes in their appreciation of the high school dropout situation.
For example, while it is a solid faith-belief among teachers that parents are a major part of the dropout problem, another Civic Enterprises report based on parent surveys, “One Dream, Two Realities: Perspectives of Parents on America’s High Schools,” shows, “Parents with less education, lower incomes and children in low-performing schools were the most likely to see a rigorous education, and their own involvement, as critical to their child’s success.” That parent survey report also says that lower income parents feel far less welcome in their child’s school. That unwelcoming attitude certainly would interfere with the ability of school staff to really understand what parents think and are trying to do.
Other comments in the new teacher and principal survey further support concerns about school staffer attitudes. The report found, “Less than one-third of teachers believe that schools should expect all students to meet high academic standards, graduate with the skills to do college-level work, and provide extra support to struggling students to help them meet those standards.” If you don’t expect kids to do well, they generally won’t.
The new survey also shows, “Significant majorities of both teachers and principals do not believe that students at risk for dropping out would respond to these high expectations and work harder.” I know some charter schools that would vehemently protest that incorrect belief. I just wrote about one earlier today.
More importantly, when Civic Enterprises discussed this issue with dropouts themselves, “Two-thirds of dropouts said they would have worked harder if more were demanded of them.” You have to wonder if the teachers ever effectively communicated with these kids.
There seems to be a lot of denial in the school community. Teachers and principals refuse to come to grips with the dimensions of the dropout crisis. Civic Enterprises reports, “Nearly half of teachers (48 percent) and more than half of principals (55 percent) reported their school’s graduation rates were 90 percent or higher. Only 23 percent of teachers and 20 percent of principals reported their school graduated less than 80 percent of their incoming freshman class.”
While there is plenty of controversy about what the real graduation rate is in the United States (largely thanks to educators doing a lousy and so far ineffective job of figuring out what the numbers actually are), the vast majority of researchers in this area point at US average rates no higher than 80 percent. If so, a very large proportion of our school staffers are either romantically in denial, or they purposely are hiding the sad facts from the rest of the country to cover their poor performance. Neither possibility is acceptable.
There is a lot more in the Civic Enterprises report, and anyone who really would like to see our dropout situation fixed, teachers included, needs to put their nose into these pages.