American dropouts: Part I

I have been thinking a lot about the dropout crisis lately. In these next few posts, I’d like to share my thinking with you.

First off, I think there are two dropout crises plaguing American public schools.  The one most often thought of is also the focus of this piece, specifically the vast numbers of students dropping out of school. My school is one of “those schools.”  Every year, we enroll between 500-600 freshmen.  Four years later, I watch with mixed emotions as about 350 seniors walk across a stage, shake hands with the principal, and receive a diploma. Of course, I am proud of our graduates.  However, I can’t help but wonder what happened to the other 150-250 kids.

So when I got a call from KQED, our local PBS station, asking if I would help with their American Graduate program, I jumped at the chance.

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) launched American Graduate in 2011.  CPB has been doing periodic episodes on their several news programs and airing documentaries on the theme of dropouts in America. You can keep up on their programming by liking the American Graduate Facebook page.

KQED in San Francisco is one of the 20 community hubs that are independently planning events and action to address the dropout rates in America.  Specifically, KQED is focusing on the Oakland community, which is why the event is happening at Laney and probably one of the reasons I was asked to help out.

KQED is launching our efforts on March 13th at Laney College in Oakland.  From 5-8PM, 100-250 educators and community members will discuss these three themes:

  • Successes within our public school system
  • Youth empowerment
  • The teacher’s role in school reform

Glynn Washington from NPR’s Snap Judgment is going to host the event.  I’m going to be one of the teacher-panelists speaking at the event.

In addition to the discussions, the event will feature some art and music performances by Oakland students.

The event/discussion will be webcasted on KQED.org, and a condensed version will be aired on 88.5 FM in late March.

After the Laney event, KQED is going to select one middle school and one high school to partner with for some intensive work around reducing the dropout rate.  The goal of this work is to provide the Bay Area with a potential case study that other schools can choose to model their own reforms after.  At the very least, those schools can study the example and see what lessons seem to apply to their own sites.

Finally, KQED is going to invest in a workshop series focused on STEM curriculum and STEM career academies.  I am hoping that the Green Technology Academy at my school, Skyline High, gets involved with this.

If you are going to be anywhere near Oakland, California, on Tuesday, March 13, I encourage you to join us.  If you can’t make it, check out this site to see if your local PBS station is sponsoring an American Graduate event. Together, let’s keep more kids in school.

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