I’ve always understood that kids leave high school before graduating for all kinds of reasons, often affected by multiple converging factors. But the chance to speak with three young adults generous enough to share their school stories with me (and with our readers) really brought home just how varied and complex the road to dropping out can be.
I worried at first that my “sample” was not broad enough: after all, all three interviewees were now back in school. But as Christine Pinsent-Johnson points out (p. 9), the majority of early school leavers in Canada do go on to earn their secondary school equivalency. And even though I was missing the voice of a student who dropped out and stayed out, I was amazed at how many threads were present in just these three stories. I heard about the sense of unwelcome, the experience of racism and the systemic “push out” experienced by many students from non-dominant cultures that George S. Dei writes about (and challenges us to address) in his article, “Reflections on Dropping Out of School” (p. 12). I heard about personal crises, such as depression and addiction, that stood in the way of school success. I heard about unsuitable – or nonexistent – support for learning challenges. And I heard, loud and clear, that the standard school approach is just not a good fit for some students, and that alternative, mature student and transitional programs play a critical role in enabling students to succeed academically and personally.
I found it interesting, then, to read that as part of a province-wide push to increase graduation rates, the English Montreal School Board (p. 26) found it important to strengthen their early literacy and alternative school programs. The early literacy intervention will ensure that more children are equipped to succeed at school, while the alternative high school program acknowledges that for some students, a different approach is needed.
Just as there is no one path to dropping out, there is no one strategy that will help all kids graduate. I hope you will find much to think about – and renewed resolve – in this issue. And don’t forget to look up our web exclusive articles, which profile some inspiring programs that support at-risk students.
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