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American schools fight to keep students from fearing dropouts


No data is available yet about how the epidemic has affected the country’s overall dropout rate – 2019 is the final year for which it is available – and many school officials say it is too early to know how many Students have stopped logging on to distance education. There is no plan to return. But a growing number of students who are failing classes or are chronologically absent, experts fear the worst, and schools are busy tracking wayward seniors through social media, knocking on their doors Are assigning staff to help them make up for lost time and in some cases, even graduation requirements.

“When students drop out, they usually look for an opportunity to go out. And it has provided, unfortunately,” Sandy Addis, president of the National Dropout Prevention Center, recently, referring to the epidemic . His group believes the dropout rate has increased this year and will remain high for years.

Trance Pittsch said that at a high school in Kansas City, Kansas staff members made thousands of calls to the families of at-risk students who oversee the city’s high school principals.

“If we lose a student, it’s going to happen after kicking and screaming and fighting tooth and nail for them,” Pitts said.

Many districts were waived last spring when schools abruptly closed, halting grading until students wanted to improve them. This year it created the first school for which schools would realize the full impact of the epidemic on student performance and busyness.

The early signs are not encouraging. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization warned that the epidemic posed a threat to 24 million children worldwide leaving school. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the impact of the pandemic may reduce the benefit the US has in reducing its dropout rate, from 9.3% in 2007 to 5.1% in 2019. According to data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, not finishing high school damages a person’s earning capacity, with an average of $ 150 less per week than graduation.

To keep students on track, some local governments and school systems have waived some testing requirements for graduation or altered grading policies so that missed tasks are not harmful. But such laxity carries the risk of drowning academic standards, said Russell Rumber, a professor of education at the University of California, Santa Barbara, who has written about the dropout.

“If they pass you with a D and you don’t have to do much to get it done, then maybe technically you’re getting a diploma, but you’re not getting the same type of diploma that you get from an epidemic. Can get earlier, when standards were higher, ”he said.

The National Dropout Prevention Center report predicted double or triple the number of students who were academically at risk of falling behind and not graduating.

Most of them for this school year were Jose Solano-Hernández, a 17-year-old senior at Vandotte High School in Kansas City, Kansas City. In January, when he was at his lowest point following the death of a grandparent from COVID-19 and another death from cancer that same week, he estimated that he had missed eight assignments in each of his classes.

“I wouldn’t be proud of my parents,” he recalled thinking while working at the day of a mechanic shop, struggling to learn by night.

Solano-Hernandez is slowly moving away from his work backlog as his school helped him and other struggling seniors for more in-person for more than a month before returning in late March. He said the change has brought “relief” and he hopes he will graduate.

School principal Mary Stewart said there was “radio silence” from hundreds of students in the fall. But that number was not responsible for the spring shrinking to about 40 after employees scrolled through Facebook to hunt siblings and find clues to their whereabouts.

“I went to a young man’s house the day before Thanksgiving and found that he was self-isolated in his room due to a mental health issue,” she said. “This is very common. Whatever happens in the community and the world, we are the subtle system of that. “

The epidemic has also taken a toll on students at North Grand High School in Chicago.

Principal Emily Felts said some of her students took jobs to support their families and others fell ill. Her students returned for part-time in-person instruction in April, but she worried that the dropout number would increase.

“We have done everything we feel we can to re-engage children – to try to help them. And I know that my colleagues are really working very hard, “she said.” But the reality is that it is a worldwide and a national trauma. “

It is not easy to persuade students who are reluctant to go back. At Orange County Public Schools in the Orlando, Florida, area, substitute teacher Patrice Pullin was assigned in December to oversee a group of 13 seniors who were left behind during virtual learning. She said that on her first day it became clear that her most important job would be to “rebranding” students who saw themselves as a failure.

“You have kids – and I’m not exaggerating – they had zero. They haven’t done anything since August, when school started,” she said. Now, eleven are graduates on track and the other two are on track Are close to being.

In Virginia’s Fairfax County Public Schools, the 185,000-student district saw a drop in the percentage of middle school and high school students by 83% in at least two classrooms.

District spokesman Lucy Caldwell said spring numbers returned to more general levels, as the district made several changes, including reducing the minimum number from nine to six per quarter and allowing teachers to do major work with minimal penalties. Still, she said, it is difficult to say how many students went missing or what would happen to the dropout.

“The epidemic was exceptionally hard on families – emotionally, financially and physically,” Caldwell said.

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