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A significant problem in our society are kids who are being “pushed out” of our public school system, according to Russell Rumberger, professor of education at the University of California in Santa Barbara and author of the book Dropping Out.
Rumberger is among experts on the dropout issue in America as well as educators and former high school dropouts featured in the nationally broadcast KET series, Dropping Back In. You can view the entire series online at droppingbackin.org.
“This has actually been documented,” he said, noting that some schools have even used this as a way to raise test grades and increase their graduation rates. “In my opinion, there is an incentive for schools to get rid of the kids that are most difficult to educate and that, I think, is a problem.”
Matthew Rodriguez, the principal of Pedro Albizu Campos High School contends that this is happening not only on an individual level, but also on an institutional one.
“I don’t think there are people there who are trying to manipulate and drop students out,” said Rodriguez. “The reality is that the way large public schools are structured is so that students fail. Large numbers of students failed.”
“When they withdraw, of course it is voluntary, but there was a push,” said Hasan Davis, a former dropout turned youth advocate. “There was a subtle suggestion that maybe this isn’t the appropriate place for you or maybe you’re not welcome here and it’s time for you to move on.”
Kellie Blair Hardt, a Special Education Teacher who also dropped out of school at a young age, sees the trend as well.
“We are blowing off a whole population of learners, “ said Hardt, “I strongly see a trend in focusing efforts on gifted and talented students and a lot of that has to do with so many states becoming so focused on standardized test scores.”
“An alternative school (like Pedro Albizo Campos High School) is an opportunity for young people who are looking for a second chance to be able to complete their high school diploma,“ said Judy Diaz, the Dean of Students at Pedro Albizu Campos High School. “It is also an opportunity for our young people, as they describe it, to opt out of the public school system and go to a place where they feel like they belong.”
“As a society, we should care about these children that are pushed out of school or drop out of school,” said Victor Rios, a professor of sociology at the University of California Berkeley, “because they end up in dire conditions — either in jail or prison. And we spend $30,000 taxpayer money a year per inmate in this country to incarcerate them. Or in another dire condition they end up on drugs or they end up in very low-wage jobs, and we, as taxpayers, pick up the health bill or pick up the welfare bill.”