Group Discussion Problem

Elizabeth Langley

Linda Richardson

Melissa Gordon

Rachael Crowe

Diana Desmond 

Group 3 Problem Project 

There are many factors as to why teens ultimately drop out of high school.  In 2008 alone almost 1.2 million students between 15 and 24 dropped out of high school across the nation.  The U.S. Department of Education says that the true number is hard to discern but has started pinpointing reasons for increasing student drop out rate.  Our group has focused on the overcrowding of public school classroomsPart 1: Identify the Problem- Elizabeth Langley & Linda Richardson

The classroom sizes in public schools have gotten out of control, with the population of the students on the rise every year and the shortage of teachers to oversee them.  This startling trend along with increased classroom sizes due to budget cuts in the school systems have a negative effect on the progress of students.  If students fall behind in the curriculum or are not able to receive one-on-one support from their teacher due to overcrowded conditions, then it is a situation for struggling students leading to dropping out.The problem our group identified was the issue of overcrowded classrooms in the school systems and how it is directly related to the drop out rate.  This problem is important because student-teacher ratio impacts the chances of whether or not a student will succeed. Class size is important because in a smaller class, the teacher is better able to control the students and give extra attention to the students that need it. In most school systems, there are way too many students compared to teachers, making both the student and teachers job much more difficult. Also, when children have no support within the classroom it is important to receive it from other areas such as community or parental involvement. However, in communities where there is no expectation of graduation, the dropout rate skyrockets.

Part 2: Define the Problem- Melissa Gordon           

The problem our group defined was student-teacher ratio and how this can affect and have a grave impact on the increase of the student drop out rate.  Also, the lack of parental and community involvement, as well as outside resources that the student lacks, such as tutoring either on or off campus, support from teachers because of the growing class sizes as well as single-parent households, or both parents working and don’t have time to give the child.  All these factors which stem from overcrowded classrooms leave the student feeling discouraged and not motivated to continue education which in turn leads to dropping out.

Part 3: Solutions- Rachael Crowe

1. Year-Round School: Many school districts have attempted to lessen the burden of overcrowding by opting for year-round schools.2. Tutoring Centers: Through the use of on campus tutoring centers and peer tutors, struggling students may be able to obtain the extra help they need that they are unable to get from an overcrowded classroom.3. Portable Classrooms with additional teachers: While it is clear that many school districts will not be able to afford new schools, some may be able to use portable trailers as classrooms.4. Longer School Days: By extending the school day, students could be divided up into multiple smaller classes.5. Youth Counseling Centers: Many students drop out because they do not have anyone to push them to be better.  Through the use of counseling centers, at risk teens would be able to talk to an adult about emotional issues.

Part 4: Models of Solutions- Diana Desmond

1. Year-Round School: The traditional school schedule was implemented when public education first began and the students had the summers off in order to help their families in the farms and with harvesting.  This 180-day, 6-hour a day school system was modeled around an agrarian society.  Now, times have changed and the benefits to year-round school are abundant.  James MacCallum of the West Virginia Board of Education has seen many of these positive effects in the West Virginia schools including reduced teacher burnout and student stress, reduced drop-out rates and behavior problems, increase in student achievement and retention of material.  The year-round school system is usually run with the same amount of days (180) but is most commonly broken into 45-15 system which means the students spend 45 days in school and 15 days on breaks.  The breaks are referred to as intersession and due to overcrowding in most classrooms, the teachers can actually use the intersession to help students who require additional assistance with any material in order to bring them up to speed with their classmates.  So if a student falls behind in the curriculum, they no longer have to wait for summer school to catch up or be held back.  Better information retention also means that the teachers spend less time reviewing.  Kanawha County’s Piedmont Elementary has already adopted year-round school in West Virginia and the principal, Steve Knighton received positive feedback from not only students but the teachers and parents as well. Also the discipline issues have decreased and the academic achievements have increased. Tutoring Centers: According to the National Tutoring Association, tutoring is an academically effective program. Taking it one step further, peer tutoring costs significantly less than hiring out a private practice.  It is also readily available to students while at their school and even in their classrooms.  When the classroom is overcrowded and students are not getting adequate attention and are having problems with certain subjects or material, they have the opportunity to have a peer tutor.  The effects on the students of peer tutoring programs have all been positive ones.  The drop out and failure rates of peer tutored students is significantly reduced.  Peer tutoring is also extremely effective because not all parents and teachers have sufficient time to help the student when a problem arises, however peer tutors are plentiful. Overall, the findings of one-to-one tutoring have shown to be a better alternative (less costly and more academically efficient) than other intervention models such as reduction in class size, use of teacher aides or an extended school year. In one example of the peer tutoring system in New Hampshire at Manchester High School West, students can call and request peer tutors and the peer tutor advisors will visit the students in their homerooms, study period or even after school.  This can be an easy model to implement in any school and would rely less on outsourcing private companies or other salaried positions to achieve the same results for the students. Portable Classrooms with additional teachers: Modular or portable classrooms have been a growing trend nationwide.  This idea started out of the necessity to keep the schools from overcrowding problems.  The budgets for most schools do not allow for construction of new, larger schools to accommodate the growing student population and therefore portable classrooms are an excellent cost-efficient alternative.  Throughout the nation, in Florida, California and Minnesota the use of portable classrooms has been helpful so far.  The administrators have found that the successes of the portable classrooms are directly linked to the attitudes toward them.  The teachers and students often have pre-conceived notions about portable classrooms, however even seasoned teachers like Joe Conte, a teacher in Florida school system who has taught for over 27 years in a conventional classroom setting, are finding that the perks of teaching in the portable classrooms with a reduced class size is well worth it.  To have a classroom size go from 30 students to 20 students or less is largely beneficial to the teacher and more importantly the students.  This idea can greatly decrease drop out rates because more one-on-one time with the teacher is available.  In fact, so many school systems are now turning to portable classrooms, that they are being ordered faster than they can be manufactured.  Before the arrival of portable classrooms, classes at Clarendon Alternative School in San Francisco were being held in computer labs, the library and even the teachers’ lunchroom. Longer School Days:  In Chicago, the graduation rate for African-American males is about 40% and only half of all students get accepted to college.  At the Urban Prep charter school in Englewood neighborhood, they have implemented longer school days as a successful means of changing the graduation rate.  Urban Prep added 72,000 minutes to the normal school year to create an extended school day.  This trend was started by founder and CEO of Urban Prep, Tim King.  This current year the entire senior class of 107 students is not only graduating on time but all have been accepted to college.  This model has been ranked third out of Chicago’s 98 high schools for growth and is being adapted as a model for other schools in the Chicago area.  Another positive aspect is that the teachers are not burdened by the longer school days and feel much rewarded by the success rate of their student body. Youth Counseling Centers: In 1999, Hartford Public Schools were ranked 111th of 112 cities in regards to education, public safety and health.  In 2003, Hartford was awarded a 3-year, $8.4 million dollar grant in order to be spent to enrich the education system and moreover quality of life in the area.  One of the strategies implemented was the Student and Family Assistance Centers (SFAC). These centers were built in local area neighborhoods and offer services as far as counseling, tutoring, mentoring and even group therapy sessions for students and their families.  Uniquely, these same centers are also a part of the Hartford Connects database which allows them access to the students’ enrollment, attendance, discipline and academic data in order to better serve each individual.  The SFAC model has seen much improvement in the attendance and discipline of the students they serve.  It does not specify how the counseling center directly affects drop out rates; however it does explain that the Hartford SFAC model received special recognition and the leadership team was invited to present an overview of the plan at the National Association of Secondary School Principals Meeting in 2005.  With the amount of success seen with this counseling center model we can assume that the drop out rate has decreased in the past years since the program began.  This model is also conducive to alleviating the stress on the teachers who might not have enough time to devote to each student due to larger classroom size.  If the teacher sees a potential problem student or patterns of behavior, the student and the family even, can be referred to one of these youth counseling centers and receive appropriate care and time.