Sunday, January 29, 2006

High Stakes Learning

I was reading an article in the Los Angeles Times this morning on the high school drop out problem, an issue that I became all too familiar with during my years in high school. I was intrigued by one stat that was quoted for the article. I'm familiar with the usual comparisons of graduates earning more money over a lifetime than non graduates, but this quote really caught my eye.
High school graduates live an average of 9 years longer than non-graduates.

Wow! There's an eye opener. Why is this important for Halecrest Elementary? Well, let me make the connection. Most students who drop out of high school drop out in their 9th grade year. They hit high school with either major gaps in their learning or face life-changing events or make bad choices (e.g. drugs). These students that have major gaps in their learning come from middle school where they are often socially promoted. I worked at a school that regularly sent approximately 15% - 20% of its 8th grade to high school as social promotions. These same students usually left elementary school well below grade level for a multitude of reasons. That brings us to our little cherubs. If we don't help students overcome learning gaps that surface in the primary grades, we are creating an almost surefire drop out! We must have a sense of urgency that every student leaves each grade at grade level or move heaven and earth to make it happen. Understand that the stakes are high. Not to be overly dramatic, but our students' very lives are depending on it.

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