We continue a special live broadcast from Oakland’s Castlemont High School on the dropout crisis in public schools. In this hour, we turn to policymakers and education reformers who have given this issue a lot of thought. Do they think the problem is only about schools? Or does it have more systemic causes? What are some proven, innovative approaches to help alleviate the problem?

The Dropout Crisis: Solutions 22 March,2012forum

Michael Kirst, president of the California State Board of Education and professor emeritus of education at Stanford University
Russell Rumberger, vice provost for education partnerships at the UC Office of the President, director of the California Dropout Research Project and author of the book "Dropping Out"
Fania Davis, executive director of Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth
Tony Smith, superintendent of the Oakland Joint Unified School District

  • Hasenpfeffer

    Is everyone meant to graduate high school and go to college? Would it not be better if we just accept that a certain percentage of the population is meant to work in factories and the fields, and then prepare to receive them by creating factories for them to work in, and making fieldwork more humane through the use of technology?

    • Joe

      There is absolutely no shame in learning a trade and putting in a full day of quality work.  The push for everyone to go to college is unrealistic and does not address the needs of the entire population. 
      Masons, plumbers, carpenters, etc. can never be outsourced.  Those skills will remain in demand in the United State for decades.  .

      • Sam

         Education has a social value above and beyond mere job training. Plumbers and masons deserve to have critical thinking skills too. Disregarding the education of the working class tends to lead to racial and other divisions and prevents empowerment among the working class too. As much as anything else, the education will give them personal choice so if they ever want to cease being a plumber, they have the skills to find another field of work.

        • Whereiskatima

          Sam – You are point on. All students should have Algebra and the ability to think critically so they have self efficacy and can make self directed choices for everything from health care/lifestyle to reproduction, etc.  Great plumbers, masons, construction workers and car mechanics are so valuable to any community.   It seems students should have a choice in what they ‘grow up’ to do AND be shown the pathway(s) to do it well.

        • L Cuttler

          Sam, you’re right on target. Critical thinking skills go hand in hand with literacy skills.  The cycle of illiteracy can be broken when students learn the skills for whatever occupation they desire. How can we do that?  By preparing teachers of reading, general ed or special ed, with methods that can teach all the children.  We must stop leaving out 20% of learners who need explicit, structured, kinesthetic instruction.  That’s the NICH statist, and recommendation of the National Reading Panel 2003. Well prepared teachers create successful students.  We have to reform teacher icensure.  Would you hire a plumber who had only a plunger to fix a flood?  Then why would you hire a teacher who lacked all the tools?

  • Sarahandbrad

    What about mental health issues? As a social worker, I have spent some time in Oakland high schools and it seems to me there is much untreated depression and trauma. So often these kids are labeled as oppositional and defiant. Many of these kids come from families suffering from issues related to grief, loss and trauma. Their families need treatment as much as they do!

    Mill valley

    • DahliaBlack

      Totally agree! There are so many social factors that contribute to kids not succeeding in school. Schools can’t fix all of these problems. To quote Diane Ravitch, “If every child arrived in school well-nourished, healthy and ready to learn, from a family with a stable home and a steady income, many of our educational problems would be solved. And that would be a miracle.”

  • Sam

    We need after-school programs which expand the minds of our young people, however this requires money from the State. Extra-curricular activities need to be diverse to fit the manifold need of many kinds of students, but this requires the kind of governmental attention, as well as nuanced policies which are never heard in our simplistic political discourse. It is important to raise the ambition and potential among the students themselves, and the way to do that is to create a system of extra-curricular activities. The sad reality is that California voters have been tricked by the prison-industrial complex and the police to spend billions on incarceration, when a *fraction* of that spending on incarceration would help prevent criminals to begin with, and actually help in making these people productive citizens.

    • L Cuttler

      And one of the after school activities could be games to help children learn the reading skills.  As an experienced teacher that uses fun games, I know play is the way.  I’m ready to share with anyone reading this.
      Lucille Cuttler

  • Whereiskatima

    I am confused how restorative justice is any different from’common sense’ and getting a student out of the room so other students can learn AND making all the players in the ‘game’ have a conversation about what happened.  As a teacher, most schools make no effort to have a student listen/respond to other side, lack any effort to get a parent in the office, never mind at the school except to throw a tantrum and I have never seen a school follow up on a parent getting ‘help’ – that falls on the teacher and CPS.

    • Whereiskatima

      Still confused how what Fania Davis is saying is any different than what a good teacher would be doing EXCEPT that it is happening and the principal and parent, etc. are accountable…….

  • 1PeterDuMont2STARALLIANCE8

    In my experience, among the “simplest” and best interventions for increasing motivation and satisfying performance in schools are these:
    1) Defining the meaning of the word “intelligence” for students, using its component derivations from Latin.   “Inter” = between; and “Legere” = to gather, choose.  In effect, therefore, intelligence in modern English means: “the ability/action of gathering information, organizing and understanding it, and making beneficial choices.”   

    When adults understand this fundamental concept themselves — and do students the respect of explaining it early on in their school careers — it helps students realize how important the educational opportunity is to their entire lives.

    2) The “Quiet Time” program of Transcendental Meditation gives students brief structured opportunities, twice a day in class together, to settle their minds down deeply for just a few minutes. This helps brains (of any age — but especially the turbulent adolescent years) to function properly as they face daily educational and social challenges in addition to normal stress and fatigue.

    Speaking personally, I learned “T.M.” at age 18, during my first year at U.C. Berkeley.  Within a few weeks, I felt a deep sense of loss: not to have learned this marvelous, intellectually clarifying, emotionally stabilizing experience years earlier at age 13!  

    Now that the program is proving itself very well in San Francisco and other public school settings, we, the adults of society, owe it to the next generation to fund and incorporate TM promptly into mainstream education.


  • Whereiskatima

    What is OUSD doing to support teachers who have to deal with students/parents with outrageous behavior, often appropriate for settings requiring incarceration?  In other professions when people have to deal with this behavior, they are able to regularly and easily obtain counseling/support. Teaching is such a lonely job and with all the teacher bashing, it has become worse. While a great deal of focus is on students, some needs to be on the very people who show up and try to do their best in spite of everything. Since students practice what they know from home, students are verbally and phyiscally abusive to everyone……including teachers. 
    I believe there is a law on the books where parents can be asked to come to school and sit with their child during school hours. Why is this not done?

  • Laura

    WOW!!! Wonderful program, so many impressive people working to help our youth. You have given me many ideas of ways to pitch in , a heartfelt thank you to you all.

  • Hasenpfeffer

    I firmly believe that cognitive skills are vital for everyone, even farm and factory workers, if they live in a democratic republic. They need to think through problems and not fall for the array of logical fallacies that are thrown at them by the media, political parties and advertisers.

    • Don Hagelberg

      “Logic” is a system for persuasion.  It is not scientific unless the argument which it presents is based on science.  People have multiple ways of learning. c.f. Howard Gardner’s work.  Please take a look at the verifications which research has profided for this crude model.

  • Xandrawalsh

    unable to get through via phone

    please why all about public school vs. private school, disparities start there, we need people to have faith in their public schools rahter than segregate them in private schools – mix people, all become aware of others, learn and grow
    have faith in young people

    that is what i do at my work as a HIV researcher … get public high school student with upper class kids from around the country at summer programms, honor what kids love and want to do, (may not be college) treat post traumatic stress

    i will send my daughter to Mission High my local HS where she will be exposed to real life and excellent education

  • Don Hagelberg

    From birth to the time that the plates of the skull close should be the “childhood years.”  If we do not help children grow…they will kill us older ones. If we do not help children learn, they will not be able to be employed and will not be able to fire the demand for goods which YOUR job depends upon.  From womb to skull closure, support the nine intelligences which each individual is born with.  Use those nine [multiple] intelligences to function as  motivation to continue schooling, to function as a way from which present all subsequent instruction upon….use music as metaphor to present material in other areas of instruction.  Thank God for  Doctor Howard Gardner of Harvard; his work is redemtive.  

  • Dbmapit

    It seems to me that the way the current educational system is design it will never be able to address the students individually. There needs to be a complete overhaul. With the technology available to day( i.e. Internet ) and the ability to virtually bring together expertise to evaluate and address every individuals needs, we would be foolish not to take advantage of these technology. To continue to jam a round peg into a square hole is insane. The tech to track a students progress, physically, academically, etc… in real-time so anyone who care can help raise our children, and keep them safe.

    • Don Hagelberg

      For your insight to be married to the work done by Doctor Howard Gardner at Harvard in learning ways would be terrific.

    • JeffMiller

      This is happening. The quality of educational technologies is improving dramatically, and a lot of it is the kind of “smart” technology that does constant assessment and adjustment so students can learn at their own pace. The result is that many schools and districts are moving toward a “blended” model that combines traditional classroom instruction with online learning that students can do anytime, anywhere. We are moving toward a more personalized model of learning based on student interests, strengths, weaknesses, that can also accommodate the needs of students who need to work, care for siblings, etc.

      We are moving away from the factory model, in which everyone is expected to move at the same pace, cover the same material and learn in the same way (and if they don’t, they are considered to be failures) to a more performance-based model in which it doesn’t matter so much HOW you learn something as that you can PROVE you know it. Unfortunately, progress is slow because of the mania for standardized tests and the public’s belief that the traditional model of schooling is the only “real” way to educate. But technology is helping. We’ll get there.

  • Don Hagelberg

    I have been a person who has gone through the “Restorative Justice” process. That appearance was based as a victim of crime.  I was beaten and went through the process.  Thank God for my going through the process…it was the only way by which I could have let go of the “hate.”

  • Ethan Berry


    We are a non-profit organization who seeks to work with economically distressed areas where drop out rates are the highest in California.  We have found that when students have before school and after school programs which cater to the individual learning needs each child may have, they thrive, grow in understanding of the subject matter they need to raise their school grades on and have a more optimistic view on their scholastic abilities and decisions on how to prepare for higher education [college].  We earnestly believe by funding early school and after school programs tailored to each community school districts needs [more volunteers and teachers of color to help the school teachers as needed] works!Please view our unfinished website at http://www.ethanberry.org, view some of our video interviews thus far with students and about education.  We would like to be emailed the transcript of todays forum, or informed of where to get it, so we may contact the stake holders in each functional area of discussion mentioned on the forum from Castle Mont High School today, March 22, 2012.  Please email us the transcript for todays discussion at Castle Mont High School in Oakland California so we may be able to followup with the stake holders who spoke at the forum and the officials who make things happen within our educational system both locally and state wide.The fist question our non-profit organization has is: “Whom do we contact to collaborate with all of the federal, state and locall government departments who deal with this drop out problem with low income children, African Americans, Latino and Mexican American children?  We want to help share our success stories and collaborate with other success stories to help build a methodology which works for the core of the drop out problem addressing the parents, children, school districts, schools and the support system which needs to be modified for the 21st century through our local, county, state and federal government funding, as well as foundations like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation who have been very generous in trying to tackle this problem which plagues minority children.  Let’s face it, children from upper middle class and rich homes, parents make up the difference regarding what their child may need to receive the best education [all children have problems in some area of education growing up, but I have never met a child who is not a genius!].  We must find a way to not only teach the children for education purposes, but also love them in ways which show America cares about it’s children getting the best education and also showing the American teachers that their job is a valued and precious service and worth being paid a wage commensurate with what they do for America [I am speaking of the good teachers, not the other ones].  Teachers have the ability to change the lives of children for the positive, but they need to be compensated for their excellence [if the teacher does not demonstrate excellence in being able to change children’s lives for the betterment of the child’s individual education, then they do not deserve to be paid a higher salary].  We believe a positive change in the drop out rate in the State of California and across America will only happen when School districts, the government, teachers, parents and students are willing and able to work together as a village to raise the children to be productive citizens.We thank you for putting on this forum, it is something which is certainly needed and it will take the village to help the school districts and parents raise and educate the children [youth] in our schools not only in the State of California, but throughout America.Thank you in advance.Ethan Berry,Community Activisteberry@ethanberry.org(510) 277 – 0193 ext. 101

    • L Cuttler

      Your insights encourage me to believe you will be an ally in a growing movement to reform licensure for teachers of reading. This was initiated 2010 and now has supporters throughout the country.  To learn more about this, I hope you and I can meet/discuss how we can cooperate. Freedom from fear and want rests ultimately on education which in turn rests upon literacy.  
      Lucille Cuttler
      l.cuttler@comcast.net   415 665 2768

  • L Cuttler

    Dropouts and truancy create a pipeline to the prisons. Not the least of the many reasons to account for this is the lack of literacy skills to cope with a challenging curriculum.  Fourth grade reading skills are not equal to the demands of today’s technological society. Indeed, inability to read beyond fourth grade level is the definition of illiteracy.   We have to ask why we are failing our children?  The answer lies in changing how teachers of reading are prepared.  While the evidence is there from scientific research on how to teach English, the colleges are not giving that information to those preparing to teach in the primary grades.  So we should stop blaming teachers for miserable test scores, and go to the source of this problem.  We have to change the requirements for licensure of reading teachers including teachers of special education.  Legislation to do just that has been passed in Texas and Wisconsin.  Should Califonia lag behind? 
    Lucille Cuttler, San Francisco

  • utera

    Well sure dropouts and truancy create the pipeline, but the parents create the dropouts, a teacher or school can only do so much. 

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