The Substance Abuse Networking Organization has tried to address the drop-out problem for the past 15 years through its CARE outreach program - Community Assistance Revitalization and Education.
SAYNO Executive Director Frank Winkler responded to our editorial this week with sobering statements:
"Incentives and dis-incentives - no driver's licenses - may make a difference for a few, but by the time a student reaches 16 the damage is done. Too often, by the fourth or fifth grade, kids aren't capable of reading at the level required to perform. They likewise lack requisite math skills. The result: failure and frustration. We've seen instances where students failing every course are still promoted. This leads to almost guaranteed failure, embarrassment and frustration, and the conclusion by the student, Why bother? Education is not valued at home and especially on the street. It is openly ridiculed. Many of these kids come from homes where failure to complete high school is a multi-generational condition. Education is simply not stressed or even recognized as something of value, and too often, kids are not encouraged to achieve academically. Sports are far more important. Street values recognize school as someplace to go to socialize. Kids participating in our tutoring program at the local community centers are often ridiculed and sometimes attacked physically for participating by other kids. Teachers are faced with a tremendous burden as well. With a classroom of 25 or more students, how much time can a teacher reasonably take to try to assist and motivate a recalcitrant, indifferent or disruptive student? The mold is set early on for drop-outs. If a child is not progressing satisfactorily by the second grade, he or she continues to go downhill. Truancy, discipline problems and academic failure become the norm long before high school. Dropping out is all but guaranteed long before they come of age to do so legally. It will take concentrated effort, including greater outreach by the school, to get to parents, convince them of the role they play, help them recognize the importance of education and provide the support needed to assist them in that role."