To the Editor:
In response to your March 8, 2006, article about Civic Enterprises’ study on dropouts (“H.S. Dropouts Say Lack of Motivation Top Reason to Quit”), I am resisting the urge to say “Well, duh!” to the report’s results.
At the same time, I want to applaud researchers for finally including the voices of students who have been traditionally underserved, disempowered, and removed from our mainstream education system. With over 15 years’ experience working with this student population, I can verify the study’s findings with my own research. It’s about time for society to listen to the concerns and needs of our most-vulnerable youths, and take seriously their suggestions on how to improve secondary education.
Let’s take this a step further and include the voices of teachers who have worked extensively and relentlessly to serve the needs of these students. We must insist that the next round of megamillion-dollar-subsidized research include the voices of adult educators (working in General Educational Development test-preparation and diploma-recovery programs) and alternative-school teachers, who are laboring tirelessly to serve the needs of our young-adult learners. These are the professionals who have listened to the students, taken them seriously all along, and helped them overcome past obstacles to discover success.
Teachers of disenfranchised, marginalized, and educationally neglected youths are the most important “missing voice” from the current research. And they are the ones who could have written that dropout report in their sleep.
Debra L. Yates
Albertson College of Idaho
A version of this article appeared in the March 29, 2006 edition of Education Week as Dropout Research: Heed Voices of the Underserved