Monday, July 03, 2006

Indiana Leads The Way

Alas, this is not good news. Indiana has the highest high school drop-out rate in the country. From an Indy Star report:
Indiana has the worst high school dropout rate in the nation, despite state efforts in the past decade to demand the best of schools and students.

Thirteen percent of Indiana teenagers from 16 to 19 quit school in 2004, according to last week's Annie E. Casey Foundation's Kids Count report. Indiana's dropout rate was flat from 2000 to 2004, while rates in 42 other states improved.

"It's bad news for Indiana, no matter how you slice it," said Bill Stanzcykiewicz, Indiana Youth Institute president and member of the Indiana Education Roundtable policymaking group. "We're known as a state for auto racing, we're known as a state for basketball, but we need to be known as a state that places a high importance on doing great in school."

Iowa and North Dakota had the lowest dropout rates at 3 percent.

Unfortunately, this report will inevitably lead to calls for more money for the schools. Ah, money, that magic problem solver.

We put too much money into the schools right now. That's right- too much money. What we lack and need is the undivided attention of parents, to support their children, and equally importantly, their teachers.

My own experience with my son and IPS was awful- not because of his teacher. She was extraordinary. That's no small compliment from this Libertarian, who has always taken a dim view of public schools. She called me on my cell phone any time he acted out or 'forgot' an assignment. She was excellent. With that sort of attention to detail, I asked her why the kids in her class weren't doing better.

She reported that most parents were worthless as support to their children's success. These are my words, of course, but that's what it amounted to. Most parents wouldn't take her cell calls. Frequently, she heard from parents that it was the teacher's job to educate, and the parent's job was to get the kids on the bus in the morning. Parents don't check on the homework. They don't insist that the TV stays off until a book has been read. They don't urge the kids to think of college as a goal. They don't speak to their children about the future much at all.

Most parents warehouse their kids for the day, very sadly. No amount of money will make the rate improve unless the behavior and attitudes of parents improves. This seems to be the white elephant in the room that never makes it into these reports.


Anonymous said...

That's all well and good, Mike, but do you have a proposed solution to this problem? Or are you just content to point the finger in the parent's direction and let that be it? I only ask because you're the one interested in public service and I'm curious as to what you think should be done about it.

J. A. Thomas said...

Personally, I think that parents don't feel a sense of ownership in their child's education. I think that communities should have more control of their schools. By treating the schools as a vital community function rather than another branch of government, we can take the first steps towards vesting parents in thier child's education.

Jeff Pruitt said...

School uniforms and more prayer - that will fix the problems...

Mike Kole said...

Anon: I guess I'm trying to speak to the Libertarians who frequent this site, who are often hypercritical of public education, and public school teachers because of the teachers' union. While there are large problems with all of these, I wanted to point out that the biggest determining factor in the education of a child is the home environment.

As a person interested in public service, I think it is crucially important to not leave the parents out of the dialogue, so that the environment for learning is improved. Civic leaders should talk about the role of parents. They should encourage parents to participate in the education process. They should praise the ones who do.

Unfortunately, there is a large portion of the population that doesn't think about the process of education much beyond getting the kid on the bus. That needs to be identified as a problem in the public discourse. That's the starting point.