Boston — What happened to all the students who graduated from or dropped out of your secondary school last year? What happened to all the students who graduated from or dropped out of your secondary school the year before? And the year before that?
If we're interested in improving school programs, counseling, and teaching, we need to know what happens to our dropouts as well as to our graduates.
If no plan to track these youngsters is already in effect in this year's budget, volunteers will be needed to contact as many school leavers and graduates as possible from 1979 and 1980.
What percentage went to college? What percentage of those who graduated in 1979 are still enolled in a post-secondary institution in the fall of 1981?
What percent were holding down a full-time paying job three months after graduation? What percent of those who graduated in 1979 are still holding down full-time jobs in the fall of 1981? What percent of those are still being paid the minimum hourly wage?
What percentage of those who dropped out during the 1978-79 school year are enrolled this fall in a post-secondary school? What percent of those dropouts are holding full-time jobs, and what percent of those are still being paid the minimum hourly wage?
The same set of questions need answers for those who dropped out of your secondary school in 1979-80 and for those who graduated in 1980.
This is a ''bare-bones'' kind of information, but other than the percentage of any one graduating class intending to enroll in a post-secondary institution, few secondary schools have any notion at all of what happens to those who leave early or graduate, and no program to track these youngsters into this vital next step.
It's hard to work on ''needed'' school improvements without knowing what most needs improving.
For example, the counseling for employment either after dropping out or graduating: How do you know what kind of counseling job you're doing if you don't know whether your students have succeeded or failed?
And job preparation, particularly for those who won't finish the last year of secondary school - how do you know if what you've done for those students has provided them with necessary attitudes and skills to become successful members of the work force?
Generally a secondary school knows which students won't complete the full course of study and will be leaving (dropping out) before the end. In some schools, this may be as many as half the entering class. It is these students, particularly, for whom the in-school program needs improvement.
The national statistics indicate that major improvements are essential; how does your secondary school fit those statistics?
Next week: Teacher-watching