The Oklahoma Education Association has been actively involved in a variety of programs that will reduce the drop out rate. This column was in the Oklahoman today or you can read it below.
In recent days, The Oklahoman has featured the importance of addressing the dropout rate. While there may be a variety of reasons kids drop out, it is important for them, and for Oklahoma and our nation, that they remain in school. The Oklahoma Education Association is committed to addressing those needs.
The OEA has initiated and participated in "community conversations” projects, which seek input and ideas from the community served by schools so the school can better understand and address the issues and concerns important to that community.
The first project involves Putnam City West High School and the Hispanic community. Listening to the concerns of parents and using bilingual communication allows for the opportunity to address needs in a non-intimidating fashion. Because of these conversations, parents and teachers more fully understand the barriers that language can play in impeding parental involvement. Parents want to be involved and want help because they want the best for their children and that means keeping them in school.
In Weatherford, the OEA joined an already-formed task force addressing the needs of American Indian students that includes the Cheyenne-Arapaho Tribe. Understanding the Native American culture and having those conversations with parents and tribal leaders will give everyone involved in education a greater opportunity to keep students in school.
On March 30, the featured topic at the second annual OEA Educator’s and Clergy Conference will be the dropout issue and how we can focus on ways in which schools can work with the faith community to have an impact on the dropout rates.
The ability to read is essential for kids to be successful and stay in school; not being able to read contributes greatly to the increase in the dropout rate. The OEA Read Across America program not only promotes the love and joy of reading, but also the positive impact being able to read has on students’ lives. In the past 12 years, tens of thousands of kids have participated in the program and been exposed to positive reading experiences.
It is extremely important for students and parents to understand the economic impact on the dropout. According to U.S. Census Bureau, a high school dropout will annually earn approximately $19,169 as compared with $28,645 for someone with a diploma or $51,554 for an individual with a bachelor’s degree.
No matter what the reasons for dropping out, quality teachers make all the difference in the world. OEA members mentor kids and provide a variety of opportunities for them to be successful and stay in school. There are also many times where students unburden themselves to caring teachers and counselors and the bonds formed between student and teacher keeps kids in school as well.
The OEA is serious about lowering the dropout rate. Losing even one child is unacceptable. We all need to work together to address this issue. Dropout rates aren’t statistics; they’re kids Oklahoma can’t afford to lose.