In his state of the union, President Obama urged all of the states to raise the dropout age to 18. To prove I'm not simply a sheep I will say that is absolutely the wrong thing to do. In fact, I think that's moving it in the opposite direction that it needs to go. The big problem is that public school curriculum stop serving the needs of the majority the minute they all step into high school. Lisa Falkenberg of the Chronicle addressed this in her piece.
I was compelled to email her because some of the conclusions were anti-education. It was asserted that teachers, counselors, and administrators actually counsel kids to drop out and do things administratively that encourage students to drop out. I will cop to the fact that there are some students that we don't try to dissuade as fervently as we should, but I have never known any educator to encourage it.
Her article mentioned test prep courses that seemed designed to push them out. They aren't designed to push them out. They are designed to get them to pass the test. It may be true that students may choose to leave, but that is a result of a flawed plan and not the intention of the plan itself. In these things we often mistake the effects for the causes. Individual teachers and administrators do not cause dropping out. It is a flawed system that simply looks to delay the inevitable.
Political correctness has its place, but sometimes it is an impediment to the truth. It is politically correct to say all kids can learn. That is true to some extent, but people have misunderstood its limitations. All people can learn, but they can't all learn the same things and they can't learn at the same rate. Yet, this mantra has led our country down a dark road where nearly half of our children aren't getting their needs met.
You often have sixteen and seventeen year olds without any high school credits. So, is delaying their withdraw a year somehow magically make them graduate? It's happened before, but it is rare. The truth is that their demise happened years before that and the system never came up with a solution. Some educators will work hard for that student and if that student has any fight left in them they might succeed despite the odds. Simply put, the mechanisms aren't there.
I've spent more time at home than I'd like recently and I see dozens of ITT, Everest, and Fortis commercials designed to get those without skills to acquire some. Why are we allowing private companies to step up and charge people a fee (sometimes a phenomenal one) to do something we should be doing in high school? Is it more important for them to pass a test that has virtually no correlation to success in the work place or university setting? I suppose it is more important that we feel good about ourselves than to actually make a difference in more kids' lives.