Graduating vs Dropping Out: Any Difference?

The dropout rate at the high school I taught at in Chicago was over 50%. Yet what bothered me more than this was what happened to many students who graduated. Students who got into college but didn’t stay in. Or those who got jobs but couldn’t hold onto them. Seeing dropouts selling drugs on the street corner was disturbing. Seeing graduates doing it was devastating.

I bring this up because it’s time to think about classroom policies for the coming year. And I want to encourage you to do so with one goal in mind: creating a place where the messages students get from you are consistent with those they’ll get in college and the workplace. This is what I did from my third year on, and though I may not have put a dent in the dropout rate as a result, I did do my part to prepare students for the realities of future challenges. (I say this based on feedback from many students, including one who visited on a break from college and said, “Coach G, you ran your class more like a college class.”)    

I plan to share in future posts some of the specific ways I helped prepare students for college and work. But for now I just want to sell you on the premise here: that it is indeed imperative to align your policies with those of college and the workplace. And if you’re not sold from what I shared about my experience, read Martin Haberman’s article, Unemployment Training: The Ideology of Non-Work Learned in Urban Schools. Scratch that. Read it even if you are sold, since it’s hands-down the most provocative article on urban schools that I’ve ever read. A must-read for EVERY urban educator for sure and, I would argue, anyone who works with youth in any setting or has a passing interest in education.

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One Response to Graduating vs Dropping Out: Any Difference?

  1. David,
    Thanks for this and for posting the link. That is possibly the most honest and thought-provovking analysis of what really happens in an urban school (I teach in an urban middle school) that I have ever read. Everyone knows the system is not working for our students. This article introduces several factors of that equation I had never even considered. I will definitely be thinking about this going into the next school, year and I’m planning on sending the link to my principal.

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