- State Supt, Dr. June Atkinson and DPI Staff

Collaborative School Conference
NC State Conference April 18, 2011
KEY DISCUSSION POINTS1. Commend our State Supt, Dr. June Atkinson and DPI Staff-and our State Board chair-Dr. Bill
Harrison for aggressively addressing the issue of dropouts and graduation. We have talked
about this topic many times and both have a heart for these students. A special thanks to Ms.
Deborah Williams as the conference director.
2. I have been asked to speak on the topic” The best laid plans: How district policies adversely
impact students---wow-you really want me to tell all from the inside position?
3. The term dropout and/or pushed out-even the concept “cipher” all come up with the same
connotation=a student no longer in a k-12 school.
4. Dropout—the research has been consistent ---Michelle Fine and her work in 1989 when she
captured student voices inside a school for an entire year. Policy impact on dropouts has been
researched for years and I have heard students/parents and staff comments -district policies
and perhaps individual school policies are not aligned because district policies are set forth by
the Board however many schools add their own. I present those policies which all speak on,
and also those which are not policy and yet they impact students:
Known Policies:
School rules and rituals
a. attendance policy---as a principal of a large high school-we had a rule, you could only have
one unexcused absence out of seven days within a 9 week grading period-we enforced itand our attendance was over 94% every 20 day period. If you missed over 7 days you better
make sure that all days were excused or your final 9 week grade would be reduced below
70. Today I hear less about nine weeks and yes about semesters.
Do you allow students to buy back days by coming to school on Saturday? And if so-is
it open to all students or those that play sports because they must meet the attendance
b. Tardy policy-we allowed two per nine weeks-if you were over then you were suspended
from school=unexcused absence.
c. Practice of tracking/labeling students –have you ever heard it said, “I can pick out a
dropout in grade 3 speaking on experience-commencing with elementary school and
tracking throughout-self-fulfilling prophecy of both the student and the teacher
d. Mandatory School Age Law—current research examining the High School and Beyond data
and found that increasing the age (such as 18 years old) increases the probability that the
student will complete high school and yet in one state [March 16, 2011) -the political body
(House) lowered the age (so parents could have more rights on their children) from 18 to 16.
New Hampshire-two years ago had an annual dropout rate of 1% however than increase
e. No Pass/No Play-study conducted on the High School and Beyond data found that students
did better—the one negative was overage students not being able to play sports
Suspension/expulsions -----rules consistently enforced
g. Forced Transfers from one school to another school because of redistricting-has a negative
impact on students
h. Transferring to a community college to complete a degree such as GED—the student is a
termed a dropout when they leave to go to community college.
Retention—this topic has been tossed around for a long time and it goes back and forth and
yet expectations must be set and met. How many of you like to eat at a restaurant which
has F, D, C, B rating---we all like the A rating. That rating is based on the probability curve or
better known as the bell curve-basically failure is expected. How many of you would fly in
commercial jets if the takeoff and landing rate is 75%----we expect to get there and walk
away. I would propose that you examine a different curve-the line of expectancy-or better
known as the inverted “J” curve—it works.
Graduation requirements ---the state Board establishes the minimum number of units for
graduation-and school systems can establish a higher number ---there are incidences which
the system does NOT establish a higher number of unit however the individual high school
does (unbeknown to the district office) example: [ 21 units by state and local system but a
school institutes 28 units]---Do all schools require the same maximum number of graduation
units-comparing apples to oranges
Hidden Procedures
a. Pipeline from law enforcement at school to prison---the role of the SRO on campus---who is in
charge-the principal or the SRO (how much wiggle room is allowed-as of October 2010, law
enforcement has gained much more power on school campuses)
Gender specific: encourage K-2 to be non-labeled –sort of a holding pattern—little girls are
more mature and this allows little boys’ lights to come on—retention has a negative impact on
boys including their homes…..
c. (students said) School work easy, boring and testing not aligned. Little connection between
course work and life pathway.
d. (students said) Best teachers (teachers known as caring and made class exciting and yet the
word was that they expected much) are not available.
e. (students said) Mal behavior leads to suspension or alternative school=alternative school or
setting academic expectation is lower therefore easier to slide out.
(students said) 9th grade is not seen as a desirable place to be –culture shock---
g. School configuration-one student conducted in NC by Dr. Jake Vigdor, Duke University
Economist-study of NC students-Why 6th grade needs to be in the elementary level----rules and
regulations made for the highest grade student; example high school rules made in mind with 12th
graders, middle school for 8th graders, and 5th for elementary. Can 6th graders play sports in the
middle school? What about the maturity level? Vigdors’ research state and shows that moving 6th
graders will decrease suspensions, increase graduation.
h. (students said) School not welcoming –some felt pushed out-some felt teachers schemed to get
them kicked out-teachers too busy to notice them individually
(students said) Teachers afraid of students
k. (students said) Mathematics-beyond elementary school
(students said) Home life is important and not known by the school/such as Family breakupunplanned children-constant family fighting
k. Urie Bronfenbrenner and Ecological system speaks on behavior in one system may not be
acceptable in other system (such as cultural behaviors-loud talking, horsing around)—staff
needs to know the cultures they are working with
Self-defeating behaviors-drugs/sex/emotional/suicidal/teachers wanting them out
Self-esteem-what they bring to school and what is found in school (students and staff)
m. (students said) Student schedule-length and time-how about school within the school models
and other alternative solutions.
Student maturity
Cultures-Hispanic/Latino- recently the media has been presenting the
facts that the Hispanic/Latino population is far more greater than expected--a recent study
conducted in NC just released points out that we should be reaching the fathers for their
influence is highly positive---on that note allow me a minute to speak on the undocumented
student---it is a sad day when students willfully or not willfully born in this great country and
state do not have the same equal final access to higher education within the state-example: yes
being allowed to attend the community college but at the out of state price. Therefore if there
is no real chance of attending within the state then why remain in school?
Peter Senge in Schools that Learn (2002) wrote:
Organizations work the way they work because of the ways that people work. Policies and rules
did not create the problems in the classrooms today, nor will they eliminate them. IF you want
to improve the schools, before you change the rules, look first to the ways that people think and
interact with each other. All are influenced by the mental models and relationships at large I
commend Principal Finn for shifting his mental model.
Finally: Researching data on dropout is a moving target-different numbers are
presented from
different organizations; including how the rate is figured. FROM NCDPI-we got the following in March
2011 on the 2009-10 consolidated data:-we are getting better-dropout rate decreased to 3.75 %, shortterm out-school suspensions decreased 5.5 % as did long term suspension decrease 6.2 % and
expulsions declined by 24%.
Why dropout matters financially:
The annual public costs associated with one year’s class of dropouts is about $169 million
(Milton and Rose Friedman Foundation, 2007)
Consequences of dropping out of high school-2009 averages (projected) $292,000 in a lifetime.
Thank you for taking an interest in these students.