Apparently a growing number of older youngsters are dropping out before completing school. These dropouts end up with neither the academic credits to go on to higher education nor the skills to get a pre-professional job.
Often primary-school teachers know about these pupils (they can read the signs early), yet little is done in elementary or junior high school to either provide the necessary academic remediation or to provide sufficient skill training to make it worthwhile for these students to stay in school long enough to complete a sound program.
And there is some evidence that many schools almost encourage failing students to drop out in order to make the way easier for those who remain.
For those who need or want to leave school at 16, programs should be devised which provide both skill and job training.
These youngsters should be called on early to help in community service projects and to spend part of each school year on a supervised job.
When these students leave school, sometime after their 16th birthday, they shouldn't be thought of as dropouts, but as skill-program finishers.
As for those who want to qualify - eventually - for post-secondary academic schooling, teachers should note early those with learning problems and provide the necessary remedial classes.
Probably, schools that do not keep some 80 to 90 percent of their students in school to the point of graduation or completion of a job program should be put on probation.
Let me repeat that so that there is no mistake about just who should be put on probation. Not the students.
The administrators and teaching staff of a secondary school that does not keep more than 80 percent of its students through the completion of the academic or skills program should be put on probation after the first year of such a record. They should be removed if the problem is not corrected the following year.
A school with such a record of failure, should be restaffed in expectation of seeing to it that every possible way be found to have at least 90 percent of the students complete their chosen school program.
It has often been suggested that schools with a great many failures should be penalized by having some of their financial support removed. But this is self-defeating, removing the very resources needed to improve the success/failure record.
No, restaffing at both the instructional and administrative levels would be the more prudent method, and would serve notice to the entire school staff of the need to work together to keep all the students in school until they had satisfied the requirements for active community participation - whether that participation takes the form of further schooling or full-time employment.
Next week: Active (not passive) learning