School systems have struggled for ages on how to get kids to achieve more in school. Excessive absenteeism, failure to learn to read at an early age and teen pregnancy have all ranked right at the top. Now that these issues are being addressed in a strong manner, why is it that some kids are still not achieving.
Turns out that the most common reason for dropping out of school is that kids are just not motivated to stay. The question of what drives one student to stick out the 4 years of high school while another equally talented kid does not has just seemed really elusive.
Education Week did a survey of teachers and school-based administrators as to what they thought was the difference between those who graduate and those who quit. Overwhelmingly, the respondents felt that student engagement and motivation were the key reasons students stayed to graduate. Teacher quality and school climate were second and third respectively. Family background came in dead last.
So the question remains what do schools do to create that motivation and engagement. Once we acknowledge that they are partly wired into the human DNA at creation, how do we as educators manage the areas we can influence.
It would seem to me that this current drumbeat on test scores and the heavy emphasis on reading and math is going to beat the joy out of kids whose reason for being in school is something other than academic achievement. If we take away sports, performing arts, studio art, and other hands on activities we have taken away the "carrot" and schools are left with only the stick to beat in academic skills. Once students reach the quitting age they can get away from that stick.
We need to return to the time when comprehensive schools really meant comprehensive. We need to motivate kids with many thing and understand that each of us are drawn to different thing. Then we will get the motivation and engagement we need to make kids stick around to complete their high school education.