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Journal of Secondary Alternate Education

Journal of Secondary Alternate Education: Homepage Reviews of and Comments About the Journal Volume 9, Number 1, Winter 2012 Volume 9, Number 2, April 2012 Volume 9, Number 3, May 2012 Volume 9, Number 4, June 2012 Volume 9, Number 5, July 2012 Volume 9, Number 6, August 2012 Volume 9, Number 7, September 2012 Volume 9, Number 8, October 2012 Volume 9, Number 9, November 2012 Volume 9, Number 10, December 2012 Volume 10, Number 1, January 2013 Volume 10, Number 2, February 2013 Volume 10, Number 3, March 2013 Volume 10, Number 4, April 2013 Volume 10, Number 5, May 2013 Volume 10, Number 6, June 2013 Volume 10, Number 7, July 2013 Volume 10, Number 8, August 2013 Volume 10, Number 9.0, September 2013 Volume 10, Number 9.1, September 2013 Volume 10, Number 10, October 2013 Volume 10, Number 11, November 2013 Volume 10, Number 12, December 2013 Volume 11, Number 1, January 2014 Volume 11, Number 2, February 2014



The Journal of Secondary Alternate Education        Volume 9, Issue 1, 2012 (Winter). Peer reviewed. http://journalsecondaryalternateeducation.20m.com/

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This Issue:

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A Review of Collaboration in Administration: Implications for Student Retention, by Soribel Genao (Queens College CUNY) [peer-reviewed article]

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Sunglasses and Evaluation, by Dan Lukiv (McNaughton Education Centre, Quesnel, BC) [peer-reviewed article]

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An English poetry resource: Her Story, by Dan Lukiv: http://www.danlukivxx.20m.com/blank.html 

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A Review of Collaboration in Administration: Implications for Student Retention, by Soribel Genao* 

ABSTRACT

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The popularity of collaborative initiatives is continuously growing.  While usually supported by private, public, and nonprofit agencies, the idea to come together for a common goal instead of working in isolation becomes just as influenced by the process as much as the outcome.  In this paper, I examine the anticipated strength of collaboration among sectors and school districts combating the dropout crisis.  I wish to provide orientation of the cultivation of partnerships created to come as close as possible to prevent students from dropping out of school.

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Findings include a comprehensive review of patterns regarding the need for collaborative services, what the collaboration entails, and the benefits, challenges and future trends of these services. As collaborative partnerships between all sectors in urban education continue to expand, the presented material that explores the importance of maintaining contact with stakeholders, students, and families along with highlighted gaps in current literature.

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Exam Fields: Public Administration, Intersectional Collaboration, Urban Education Policy* 

*                                                                                                                                                       Today, public administrators increasingly operate inside a collaborative network, recognizing that, alone, they cannot solve the deep-rooted challenges affecting America’s cities. The issues are not new: public managers in state and local government confront the same set of familiar challenges, including homelessness and a lack of decent affordable housing, joblessness, juvenile crime, and diminished civic involvement. The complexity of these problems, moreover, calls out for the involvement of multiple partners—e.g., can juvenile crime be effectively addressed by tougher law enforcement only, or is there also a role for youth programs, educational opportunities and mentors? The same principle holds true for other problems arising out of poverty: multidisciplinary, or networked, approaches are clearly needed.  In order to respond to today’s policy challenges, government increasingly fulfills its duties by managing networks rather than bureaucracies, a trend described by Stephen Goldsmith and William Eggers in Governing by Network: The New Shape of the Public Sector. In these networks, public managers must rely less on public employees in traditional roles and more on a web of partnerships, contracts, and alliances to deliver essential services. The reasons for this are two-fold: first, government by itself does not have the resources to initiate full-scale community problem solving, and second, complex issues arising from poverty span multiple disciplinary fields—that is, networked challenges require networked solutions.

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The importance of examining collaboration between an inner city school district with high dropout rates and private, public, and nonprofit organizations is currently supported by program effectiveness. This realm is documented within the literature as impacting the evolution of program outcomes within alternative education.

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The National Academy of Public Administration (2002) reported on the evolving role of federal managers clarifying several trends changing the nature of public-sector work. These developments comprised of amplified practical difficulties, a lessening decision-making workforce, praising managerial arrangement, and request to enhance performance. Researchers Kamarck (2003) and Kettl (2005) present additional engagements that are exchanging the existence of power, including the “blurring of the sectors.” These engagements explain the call for lawmaking agencies along with administrators to work in partnership with nonprofit and private organizations to deal with “wicked problems.”   In this case, one group has all the necessary resources or decision and the price of failure is huge. Likewise, the increase in the “hollow state,” as depicted by Milward & Provan (2000) and Light (2006), presses the need for public-sector administrators to expand boundaries to make sure that a rising number of liaison service contributors are held responsible for results. Together, these versatile engagements communicate to changing surroundings in which a collaborative performance is returning a conservative sequence of authoritative influence for reaching public-sector aims and producing public significance.

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Collaboration between inner city school districts and public, private and nonprofit agencies presents a complex set of state of affairs that have not been specifically addressed within the research. These studies are parallels to the structure and purpose of the partnerships developing between public school districts and external organizations. Issues of systemic organization are being addressed at the administrative level (Cancelli & Lange, 1990; Kratochwill et al., 1995). Challenges and recommendations for successful collaboration at the direct service level are also discussed (Alpert, 1995; Martens & Ardoin, 2002; Thomas, 2001).

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Collaboration

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To begin to understand collaboration as a process that yields particular outcomes, it is helpful to start with Gray and Wood’s (1991) theoretical framework. To understand collaboration, they argue, scholars must examine three areas: antecedents to collaboration, the process of collaboration itself, and the outcomes of that process. It is noteworthy, however, that these three areas are not always clearly modeled in collaboration research. Scholars often simultaneously associate antecedents with collaboration processes and outcomes, for example, and fail to distinguish mediation from outcome variables. The literature covering interorganizational relations (Ring and Van de Ven, 1994), policy implementation (O’Toole, 1997), cooperation theory (Axelrod, 1984), and collaboration research (Huxham, 1996) is rife with variables likely to enhance collaborations, but these variables either go unanalyzed or are not systematically modeled. Hypothetically, a researcher’s theoretical perspective can determine how collaboration is defined and which outcomes are measured (Gray and Wood, 1991). Thus, depending on their perspective, researchers focus on varying combinations of outputs, the structure of the collaborative effort and on process. Furthermore, process dimensions of collaboration are frequently presented as outcomes (Gray and Wood, 1991).

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Collaboration among agencies or organizations is usually governed by accepted, if often contentious, governance practice. Potential participants in any collaboration include clients and customers, the agencies or organizations themselves, sponsors, and administrators, as well as the community and other stakeholders (Weiss, 1981). Consequently, any such endeavors involve complexities that can facilitate or obstruct the possible benefits of collaboration (Bardach and Lesser, 1996; Meyers, 1993). More and more, the question of organizational effectiveness is significant to the world of academia and those in practice.

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In the following survey, I examine past approaches to this question. I begin with a review of the literature on collaborative perceptions and understanding, followed by a discussion of collaborative practices that help prevent drop-outs. Then I review theoretical definitions of collaborative partnerships, and conclude with a review of the literature on processes that have been developed to educate stakeholders in collaborating with workers from different services to prevent drop-outs.

 Perceptions of Collaboration

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The topic of collaboration has received considerable interest in recent years. Agencies such as the United States Department of the Interior set “collaboration skills” as a benchmark for hiring and promotion (Taylor 2007), although there is considerable disagreement among scholars, human resource practitioners, and those managers who are actually collaborating on what constitutes collaborative ability. A review of the literature found that a number of authors have attempted to identify and describe collaboration as a distinct process with unique elements and requiring distinguishing skills.  According to Goldsmith & Eggers (2004), managing across boundaries can take time and “requires attitudes and behaviors not commonly developed as part of the typical public manager’s experience” (p. 165). The authors provide a list of skills necessary for working across boundaries, including: big-picture thinking, coaching, mediation, negotiation, risk analysis, contract management, strategic thinking, interpersonal communications, and teambuilding (p. 158).

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Collaboration is a process of contribution in the course of which people, groups, and organizations work collectively to accomplish preferred outcomes. Collaborative ventures can range from less-concentrated networks in which the clusters are relatively self-governing, to more-concentrated networks in which they are more interdependent. In one model (Kaplan, 1991) these differences in collaborative intensity define four common modes of working: networking, cooperation, coordination, and collaboration:

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1. Networking: Organizations have a relationship in which they exchange information in order to help each participating entity do a better job.

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2. Coordination: Organizations have a relationship in which they each modify their activities so that together they provide better services to their constituents.

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 3. Cooperation: When organizations cooperate, they both share information and make adjustments in their services and share resources to help each other do a better job.

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4. Collaboration: In a collaborative relationship, organizations help each other expand or enhance their capacities to do their jobs (Axner, 2007).

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Studies have recognized certain distinctive features and dynamics that, along with the expertise of management, inform the collaboration process, including communication, continuity, unanimity, involvement, and a history of successful accomplishments (Hogue et al, 1995; Keith et al, 1993). Similarly, Borden (1997) has identified four factors critical to successful collaboration: internal communication, external communication, membership, and goal-setting.

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Another factor examined is the statement of purpose and focus for the collaboration. Making certain that a process and objectives are well-defined and comprehensible to all involved in the collaboration ensures that affiliates create a structure for the venture that best serves its purpose. Defining the path to the goal and the focal point of the collaboration in detail establishes its distinctiveness and basic principles. The actions taken must also be cumulative if they are to be of significance to the collaborative group and to stakeholders; having separate exercises with parallel objectives can be contradictory. The precise definition of duties and responsibilities for assignments can increase participation, discussion, and comprehension of issues related to the process and structure for the collaboration, resulting in a better collective understanding of what the collaboration represents, the expectations for it, the internal and external circumstances, and the framework for finalizing the end results (Pfeffer and Salancik 1978).

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In addition, Thomson and Perry (2006) identify five key dimensions of collaboration: governance, administration, mutuality, norms, and organizational autonomy. Each of these dimensions involves process-related activities that include making joint decisions about rules to govern the collaborative effort (governance); getting things done through an effective operating system that supports clarity of roles and effective communication channels (administration); addressing the implicit tension exhibited in collaborations between organizational self-interests and the collective interests of the group (organizational autonomy); working through differences to arrive at mutually beneficial relationships (mutuality). Finally, developing trust and modes of reciprocity (norms) all take commitment to process over time.

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The ability to cultivate trust is very important for managers or those directing collaborative relationships (Tschannen-Moran, 2001). Trust is accumulated on understanding and account. How intentions and behaviors are perceived affects whether trust can be achieved. If there is trust, people or groups will share. If personal agendas are included or implied, the participating groups and individuals will be reluctant to become involved in the collaboration.

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A few researchers have studied the challenges posed by focusing on accountability in terms of responsiveness. In The New Economics of Organization, Terry Moe describes an appealing dispute that illustrates the challenges of accountability and the responsiveness of administrative agents to citizens. Moe argues that for principal-agent theory to be useful in the study of implementation, we must take account of the fact that administrators are not necessarily motivated by the efficient production of public service; they may be more concerned with political efficiency rather than production efficiency. Moreover, the major problem of control might not be shirking, but could involve several different possibilities, including material benefit of some sort, ranging from budgetary slack to promotion, but might also be policy-related. At a minimum, scholars utilizing the principal agent frameworks would need to grapple with the issues of political efficiency and diversity of goals—not trivial alterations.  Moe concludes that administrative representatives are more responsive when there are more imperative actions that need to be taken; they are reactive to the governing body and management. Because administrative representatives are not in competition, he believes, they do not set objectives or standards to evaluate their work. Although they are capable of stellar performance, they will generally avoid assuming responsibility. They have learned to beat control in a way that legal, political, budgeting, and executive oversight systems have been unable to overcome.

Like Moe, John Huber, a researcher known for his experimental work with legislative bills and their effects on agents, assumes that performance can be higher among agents, but the failure to oversee these agents causes more harm than good. Several studies offer theories about what motivates service agencies or organizations to collaborate with other agencies or organizations, and a number of researchers have evaluated these hypotheses and their implications (Hill and Lynn, 2003; Reitan, 1998). These academic perspectives provide a useful summary of the characteristics of agency and organizational processes that are connected with constructive incentives to partner with other agencies and organizations.  Taxonomy of such theories is most likely very important for creating effectual collaborative governance.

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Collaboration is often criticized as being unsuitable because the outcome is unpredictable. When collaborations fail, the failure may be a sign of a lack of universal perception or understanding of the significance that motivated agencies or organizations to contribute in collaborative partnerships. The accountability expected from each partner is called into question when goals are not met. Yet organizations should encourage collaboration and activities because their own environment is never entirely predictable and stable (Moon, 1999). Indeed, the organizations’ administrations must promote collaboration and experimentation by providing room for failure in order to encourage practice actions to solve complicated problems (DiIulio, Garvey, Kettl, 1993).

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How to Manage Collaboration

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Collaboration between public agencies does not come naturally. Apart from the obvious realities that job goals, job descriptions, personnel decisions, reward systems, and accountability structures are institutionally specific, a range of other issues may make collaboration a low priority. These include time constraints, differences in work cultures, the extent to which competition among agencies for scarce resources as well as attention, misunderstanding of what collaboration entails or why it should occur, varying understandings of the problem being addressed and, of course, politics. Although collaboration is not a particularly new idea, its meaning varies among many people. Students, for example, face constant competition to outdo peers or to carry out the task presented in the best manner possible. Collaboration can represent a deviation from what one is educated to do. Assuming that they conceive of information as diffuse (and controlling access to information can generate disproportionate influence for an individual or group), people may be less prone to connect in dialogues and collaboration.

Besides the list of competencies identified by Goldsmith & Eggers (2004), Foster-Fishman et al (2001) identify a number of core competencies that members need for a collaborative effort, including the ability to resolve conflict, communication skills, ability to understand other perspectives, and expertise in the problem areas. According to Chrislip & Larson (1994), excellent collaborators are those who convene others to solve joint problems, energize around a problem, facilitate the work of others, create vision, and solve problems. Bardach (1998) adds listening skills to the list of necessary competencies. Similarly, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management has identified a list of competencies it described as critical to “building coalitions” across organizational boundaries. These include partnering, influencing/negotiating, and political savvy. While these lists are insightful, most are anecdotal and some are contradictory. Regardless of the lack of consensus on what constitutes collaborative competency, one thing is certain: “People with network skills—collaborative skills not currently highly sought nor valued by government—need to be recruited, rewarded, and promoted” (Goldsmith & Eggers, 2004, p. 159).

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In most variations of collaboration, an atmosphere of innovation is encouraged. On the other hand, when innovative ideas are successful, some structure is needed to allow for regularity; both should be cultivated. But attending to process is also important. Issues of politics and bureaucracy must be understood and dealt with in the context of the agency or organization and from the perspective of the collaborative endeavor. High-quality ideas aren’t always the ones that are implemented; those plans that would probably be effective may not be adopted, or may be adopted but not ultimately implemented. Usually ideas that are tied to influential leaders are implemented more quickly (Gladwell, 2006). This usually has less to do with their personal charisma than their relative status in the political system, the status of their organization and the extent to which they are seen as power brokers. Influence on chief outcomes may not necessarily be used via proper protocol or procedures, and the collaboration’s stakeholders may not be the essential voice of reason when “outsiders” can influence the main decision makers.

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Some organizations appear to be better prepared than others for internal as well as external collaboration. Past research reveals that functioning on an egalitarian level, whether officially or unofficially, can bring diverse outlooks to bear on a problem and bring about transformation (Flora 2003). For collaboration to occur effectively within an agency or organization there must be an encouraging culture and task setting, support from higher administrators and recognition of the importance of collaborative performance. In order for collaboration with outsiders to be successful, agencies and organization must be clear, direct, and able to exchange ideas and concerns.

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Collaboration in Public Education

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Collaborative relationships among schools and parents, the public and private sectors, businesses, universities, and social service agencies in the community have been encouraged (NCREL, 1996), supported by school leadership and research organizations such as the Council of Great City Schools and regional educational laboratories supported by the U.S. Department of Education. These organizations have established task forces, issued reports, and encouraged school-community collaborations. For example, a 1998 report from the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) described the potential value of collaborations with external organizations, especially for schools in low-income areas:

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Through school-community partnerships and school-linked service efforts, educators have found ways to connect with and integrate services and supports that help low-income children achieve academic success and develop into independent, educated, self-sufficient adults. These partnerships have become much more widespread as schools have sought out allies to provide additional support for students and their families to improve education-related results. Schools also have increasingly become more active partners in efforts to revitalize low-income communities and neighborhoods (CCSSO, 1998, p. 3).

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There are numerous instances of collaborative initiatives and plans to encourage community-based collaboration among schools and organizations. These typically have a number of goals, such as advancing educational results, improving the competence and success of health and social services, addressing a broader range of the developmental needs of youth, and building the human, social, and economic capital of communities (Melaville and Blank, 2000).

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Unlike many areas of community services, however, where stable concerns, wrap-around services, and multiproblem clients provide obvious arguments for organizational and mutual responsibilities, the mutual responsibility of individual schools with other local organizations is not vigorously supported in either theory or practice. To a certain extent, individual or private schools are observed as largely independent within a top-down framework of policy direction. Consequently, public school collaborations represent the predominant opportunity to examine the different motives to collaborate, since tendencies to do so cannot be taken for granted.

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Proponents have advocated for improved linkages between education systems and social services systems for the past decade (Kann, L., Grunbaum, J., Banspach, S., & Wechsler, H. (2002; Bowen & Richman, 2002; Summerfield, L.M. 2001). Some advocates urge school systems to become the coordinating point for local social services (Pardini, 2001;Stevenson 2003), whereas others suggest the need to develop integrated services systems throughout the local community, in which schools would play an integral role with other domains—for example, juvenile justice and health care (Corrigan & Bishop, 1997; Rivard, Johnson, Morrissey, & Starrett, 1999; Tapper, Kleinman, & Nakashian, 1997). These proponents also recognize barriers that have prevented successful accomplishment of their ideas. Some of the barriers identified include financial considerations (that is, which system pays for what services?), identification of appropriate clientele (that is, who should receive which services?), disparate goals and objectives among services, location and coordination of services delivery, and evaluative approaches.

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Research on the impact of community collaboration is ongoing. Two major programs that have been studied are full-service community schools and the Annie E. Casey Foundation New Futures initiative. Some of the positive results found at full-service community-schools are improved reading and math performance, better attendance rates, a decrease in suspension rates and a decrease in the dropout rate (Schargel & Smink, 2001, p. 201).

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The New Futures initiative did show some interim steps that may lead to improved outcomes: increased awareness about the problems of at-risk youth; initiating a dialogue among leaders and community representatives; development of rich school-based information systems; and how to build strong relationship between public and private sectors by combining leadership and resources (Schargel & Smink, 2001, p. 202).

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What about Dropouts?

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Different philosophical approaches to schooling have also led to differing ways of computing the dropout rate (Coley, 1995; MacMillan, 1991). Event rates measure the number of students who leave high school each year compared with previous years. Status rates, which are generally higher than the event rate, measure the total  number of  students in the population who have not completed high school and were not enrolled at a given point in time. Cohort rates describe the number of dropouts from a single age group or specific grade (or cohort) of students over a period of time. The high-school completion rate is the percentage of all persons ages 21 and 22 who have completed high school by receiving a diploma or equivalency certificate.

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Young adults who leave school before graduating face a number of potential hardships. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics (2006), relatively more dropouts are unemployed than high school graduates, and those dropouts who do find work earn less money than high school graduates. High school dropouts are also more likely to receive public assistance than high school graduates who do not go on to college. This increased reliance on public assistance is likely due, at least in part, to the fact that young women who drop out of school are more likely to have children at younger ages and more likely to be single parents. In very poor communities like Newark, where earnings are not high for anyone, pregnant teens who drop out actually earn more in the long run than school completers. This is because they tend to enter the job market earlier. Since few do well, the length of time in the job market determines earnings. Moreover, the completers then have children when they exit, so their job entry is also delayed. Secondary schools in today’s society are faced with the challenge of increasing curricular rigor to broaden the knowledge base of high school graduates while at the same time increasing the proportion of all students who successfully complete high school. Advocates of reform have called for more effort to be devoted to linking schooling to the future, and have placed a strong emphasis on high school graduates as skilled learners with the ability to continue their education in college, technical school, or work-based programs (National Research Council, 2008).

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The impact of low high-school graduation rates on the economy has helped draw attention to the nation’s dropout problem. Practically every state governor has agreed to provide more transparent graduation data, and federal accountability policies are placing greater demands on schools and districts to improve historically low graduation rates. Even without demands from the administrative offices, there are compelling ethical, political, and financial motives for districts to increase graduation rates. Most significant, students want to graduate ninety-nine percent of high school sophomores expect to earn a diploma, and about three in four expect to earn a bachelor’s degree (Ingels et al, 2002). That high a rate, though not impossible, is unrealistic, but the students’ desire is thoroughly rational. More than thirty years ago, dropouts for the most part could still find jobs that compensated them adequately to support a family but young people who leave school today face a lifetime of economic hardship. Indeed, as the nature of available work shifts, the relative earning power of those who leave school early has declined. Between 1974 and 2004, the annual earnings of families headed by a high-school dropout declined by nearly one-third (Postsecondary Education Opportunity, 2006).

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Rising drop-out rates cause public and fiscal strains as well. Dropouts are likely to be unemployed, collect public assistance, turn to crime, and be incarcerated. Simultaneously, they are less apt to obtain job-based health insurance and pension plans, to maintain their well-being, and to vote and engage in other types of civic activity. In fact, the typical dropout contributes $60,000 less in taxes than the average graduate over his or her lifetime (Rouse, 2005; Waldfogel et al, 2005). Higher graduation rates would save taxpayer money, significantly increase tax revenues, increase employment, decrease crime, and boost civic participation.

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School districts have therefore been involved in a wide array of initiatives to reduce dropout rates, stressing the policies, performance, and programs that can demonstrate that a difference is being made. These measures have been organized around an inclusive plan for increasing graduation rates—districts should be able to forecast, intervene, prevent, recover, and implement in a manner that will help more students complete high school.

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Forecast: Who and where are the dropouts?

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Even though successful interventions can be expensive, many decision makers do not utilize the data that will assist in directing limited financial resources most effectively. For instance, a chief assessment of federally funded dropout interventions revealed that programs often enroll the wrong students and state that “Dropout prevention programs often serve students who would not have dropped out, and do not serve students who would have dropped out” (Gleason and Dynarski, 2002). A secondary effect of this is that the “success” rates of such programs are artificially inflated, but overall school leaving is not changed. Targeting the right students will certainly raise graduation rates; even the most effective intervention programs will not succeed in reducing drop-out rates if the wrong students are targeted. But reducing errors in drop-out prevention strategies will furthermore preserve those funds being spent on students who would graduate on their own without additional help.

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The issue is not only that educators make incorrect assumptions about who is likely to drop out. To be sure, most programs have created indicators for risk factors that are correlated with dropping out and the ways in which the likely dropout differs from the average graduate (Wells et al, 1989). Decades of research (Rumberger, 2004; Gleason and Dynarski, 2002) have yielded a long list of such characteristics, including:

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Demographic background: Students who are poor, who are members of certain minority groups, who are male, who have limited English proficiency, who have learning or emotional disabilities, who move more often, and who are overage for their grade are more likely to drop out.

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Family factors: Students who come from single-parent families, have a mother who dropped out of high school, have parents who provide less oversight and support for learning, and who have older siblings who did not complete school are more likely to drop out.

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Adult responsibilities: Teenagers who take on adult roles such as becoming a parent, getting married or holding down a job are more likely to drop out—although the last depends on gender, type of job, and number of working hours per week.

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Educational experiences: Dropouts are more likely to have struggled academically. Low  grades, low test scores, Fs in English or math, falling behind in course credits, and being retained are associated with lower chances for graduation. Dropouts also are more likely to have shown signs of disengagement from school: high rates of absenteeism or truancy, poor classroom behavior, less participation in extracurricular activities, and bad relationships with teachers and peers all have been linked to lower chances for graduation.

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The difficulties here start with the fact that these risk factors describe a huge pool of inner-city students, including large numbers of “false positives,” making them poor indicators of school leaving. Displaying a certain risk factor generally puts a student in a cluster whose members in broad terms are more likely to drop out, but does not mean that a dedicated student will drop out. Prediction requires more than simply knowing which general characteristics dropouts are likely to exhibit (Jerald, 2006).

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Some research (Swanson, 2004) found that it is feasible to predict the likelihood of drop-outs with greater precision. Those studies follow individual students as they progress from grade to grade. By trailing groups of students in the same grade, analysts can discern patterns that occur before a student drops out and identify a more nuanced set of risk factors that substantially improve the sensitivity and specificity of predictive models.

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In a study conducted by Roderick (1993) in Fall River, a small urban school district in southeastern Massachusetts, academic performance and school engagement provided the best forecasts of who did not graduate. By following a cohort of fourth-graders, she found that for the most part dropouts follow similar paths. Furthermore, Roderick found that the district had two very different subgroups of dropouts that followed different trajectories—early dropouts, who left school between seventh and ninth grades, and later dropouts, who left between tenth and twelfth grades. Those who dropped out between seventh and ninth grade could be expected to have had low or poor grades as far back as elementary school. However, those who dropped out in the later grades were more difficult to predict. Looking as back as far as the fourth grade, these students’ grades and attendance were not much different from those who did graduate—these indicators were not as easy to forecast until they entered middle or high school.

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Roderick also found that so-called transition years were a critical point for many potential dropouts. Throughout the transition to middle school, academic performance and attendance decreased to some extent for most students, but the decline was much sharper among potential dropouts. The corresponding events occurred later, throughout the transition to high school.

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Additional current cohort studies conducted in Philadelphia and Chicago have confirmed and expanded on Roderick’s findings. Researchers working with community clusters in Philadelphia have found that they can identify about 50 percent of that city’s likely dropouts as early as sixth grade and a full 80 percent of potential dropouts by ninth grade (Neild and Balfanz, 2006). They also revealed that risk factors occur at various points on the educational path:

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Sixth-graders with poor attendance (less than 80 percent), a failing grade for classroom behavior, a failing grade in math, or a failing grade in English had only a 10 percent chance of graduating within four years of entering high school and only a 20 percent chance of graduating a year late (Balfanz and Herzog, 2005).

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Eighth-graders with poor attendance (less than 80 percent) or a failing grade in math or a failing grade in English had less than a 25 percent chance of graduating within eight years of entering high school (Neild and Balfanz, 2006).

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Among entering freshmen who had exhibited no eighth-grade risk factors, those who had very poor ninth-grade attendance (less than 70 percent), who earned fewer than two credits during ninth grade, or who did not earn promotion to tenth grade had only a one-in-four chance of earning a diploma within eight years (Neild and Balfanz, 2006).

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On the basis of similar cohort studies, the Chicago Consortium on School Research combined two highly predictive ninth-grade risk factors to create an “On-Track Indicator” for high-school freshmen. A student is considered on-track at the end of ninth grade if he or she has accumulated enough course credits to earn promotion to tenth grade while receiving no more than one F (based on semester marks) in core academic subjects. The indicator is 85 percent accurate in predicting which members of the freshmen class will not graduate on time, and nearly as good at predicting who will not graduate within five years (Allensworth and Easton, 2005).2 (See Table 1.)

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Table 1: Examples of Highly Predictive Risk Factors for Dropping Out of District Cohort Studies

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There is good reason to think that district programs would be more successful if they base their needs assessment on studies like these before investing in intervention and prevention.

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To some researchers, educational variables are the prime indicators of the likelihood of dropping out—more so than race, poverty, age, gender, or personal circumstances. While educators frequently believe dropping out to be driven by personal and family conditions not related to schooling (Roderick, 2006), most dropouts display highly predictive educational warning signs. For instance, a federal survey showed that dropouts are two times more likely to cite school-related reasons than family- or work-related reasons for leaving school (Brewster A & Bowen G.,  2004 al, 1998), something that held true for all demographic subgroups (Jordan et al, 1999).3 (See Table 2, “Why Teenagers Drop Out.”)

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Table 2: Why Teenagers Drop Out

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Finn (1989, 1993) argued that it would be a good thing if educational vulnerabilities turned out to be better predictors because they are “alterable,” as opposed to “status” risk factors that educators have little or no control over, such as poverty, gender, race, and family background.  Finn’s prescient advice to observe and tackle early educational warning signs has led to noticeable results in interventions retaining more students in school.  As recent as 2010, studies reveal that while there are no simple solutions to the dropout crisis, there are clearly “supports” that can be provided within the academic environment and at home that will improve students’ chances of staying in school (Johnson, 2010).  While there are indicators revealing the reasons students drop out, there are those indicators that reveal why they stay in school as well.  Students need to see the relevance of earning an education and diploma and getting a job.  Experimental learning is one way to improve the relationships between teaching and curricula.  Secondly, students, who have a harder time comprehending the material, should have better access to support within the school.  Third, increasing supervision is very important to students as well as the ability to make the experience at school interesting.  In addition, established mentoring creates a unique bond with between adults and students.  This kind of relationship will be essential in the students overall experience and performance in school and life.  Finally, communication between parents and schools continues to be a prominent factor in their child’s education. (p.7)

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However, other educators disagree with Roderick’s hypothesis about why students drop out. Pedro Noguera (2004) states that the dropout rate is a symptom of a problem and not a problem that can be solved in alone.  He argues that many schools are designed for students to fail, and fixing broken school cultures is the best way to keep students engaged until graduation. Noting that 47 percent of students drop out because they are bored, unmotivated, and disengaged, Noguera recommends strategies such as providing all students with access to challenging, relevant coursework and implementing advisory systems that “create schools where students are known.” He also contends that schools must be flexible enough to forge alternative pathways to graduation for the 32 percent of dropouts who leave school because their families need them to work. Moreover, he notes that schools should not be penalized for helping such students simply because they didn’t conform to the standard four-year graduation rate. Schools should not be penalized for sticking with kids and providing support for a longer period of time. Poverty intersects with this issue, and it is foolhardy to focus narrowly on academic achievement.

*** 

These perceptive observations suggest that students across the nation are encountering more and more difficulties in their transition to high school. Not only are a significant number of students dropping out, but those who stay in high school graduate without the skills they need to become productive citizens. Several intervention strategies, from better academic preparation to structural reforms, are recommended to help students make a successful transition, and it is probable that all of them are needed and have an important place.

**

Furthermore, for nearly all dropouts, exiting school before graduation is not an abrupt or shocking event. Certainly, the vast majority (80 to 85 percent) follow discernible patterns during the course of their education, displaying very obvious signs of educational complications and disconnection well before tenth grade, which habitually continue into high school. This indicates that schools and districts can recognize most possible dropouts soon enough to intervene. Researchers in Chicago have created another “on-track” indicator that appears to be fairly accurate in predicting by the end of their freshman year which students will graduate from high school.  Freshman year performance is the indicator showing whether a student is likely to graduate from high school (Allensworth and Easton 2005).  Students who are on-track are four times more likely to graduate than those who are not (Hertzog and Morgan, 1999). 

** 

Transition years are major steps on the path to graduation, and several indicators of those students who will probably dropout show warning signs throughout the year as they go through middle or high school. This is not surprising. Along with having to adjust to new educational environments with greater academic demands, students in transition often receive less support from teachers, have greater difficulty in socializing with peers, and have less accountability (Roderick and Camburn, 1999; Neild et al, 2001). Issues appear early on, and dependable barometers of dropping out—such as plummeting grades or attendance—can be recognized very early in the year.

* 

Attendance also plays a significant role in students’ performance. Absenteeism is the most frequently identified characteristic of the at-risk student, and it has been proven to be strongly linked to achievement (McCray 2006). Several research studies conclude that appropriate interventions can reduce absenteeism. Parental involvement in children’s schooling is beneficial in combating absenteeism (Volkman, 1996), as are an orderly environment and strong teaching methods (Mora, 1997), positive reinforcement, and even compulsory attendance (DeKalb, 1999). If schools create a positive atmosphere and design appropriate interventions, the problem can be addressed.  In Retaining Students in School and Dropout Prevention, three types of interventions are explored: diagnostic, individually targeted, and school wide.  Diagnostically, the utilization of data systems that support a realist diagnosis of the number of students who drop out and that help identify individual students at a high risk of dropping out is considered to be an intervention tactic with a low probable impact.  Targeted interventions which consist of the assignment of adult advocates to students at risk of dropping out as well providing academic and enrichment support to improve academic support are believed to have moderate impact.  In addition, the implementation of programs to improve students’ classroom behavior and social skills indicate that there is a probable low impact.  Finally, school-wide interventions point out that personalizing the learning environment and instructional process create a sense of belonging and fosters a school climate where students and teachers get to know one another and can provide academic, social, and behavioral encouragement.  In conjunction with providing relevant and rigorous instruction to better engage students in learning, provide the skills needed to graduate, serve them after they leave school, and show that engagement can be increased with the necessary skills, both of these interventions show evidence for moderate probable impact.

* 

Students with a record of disconnection and academic difficulty are more likely to run into transitional problems from middle to high school, but they are not in silos. About one in four students who entered Chicago high schools with high eighth-grade test scores (in the top quartile) fell off track during ninth grade, and only about one-third of those students recovered to graduate on time (Allensworth and Easton, 2005). Similarly, nearly one-third of Philadelphia dropouts exhibited no warning signs in eighth grade but “hit the wall” when they made the transition to high school (Neild and Balfanz, 2006).

* 

Academics and engagement both matter in anticipating who is in danger of not graduating—a question about which there has been much recent confusion. In 2006, a nonrepresentative survey of dropouts indicated that most were given passing grades but were merely bored and unmotivated by school (Bridgeland et al, 2006), which quickly generated national news stories suggesting that academic failure does not have any significant role in the dropout problem. Balfanz and Legters (2006) countered that such findings conflict with evidence from cohort studies in places like Philadelphia and Chicago—where a good number of dropouts leave school without sufficient credits after not passing academic courses.

* 

There is truth in the statement that academic performance and school engagement matter equally, and that they are very frequently—though not always—connected. Finn (1989, 1993) argued that disengagement, as reflected in absences, misbehavior, and poor class participation, can lead to failing grades. In other words, students who do not engage in school academically or socially but are physically present, attentive, and behaving may be likely to fail their classes. Conversely, academic failure caused either by poor skills or little effort can cause students to feel alienated from school, leading to even greater withdrawal and lack of participation over time.

*

Without systematically analyzing local conditions, it is ill-advised to assume that districts can determine which procedures that affect academic performance and educational engagement will result in the best analysis. Teachers in Philadelphia gave behavior marks, which were more accurate than suspension rates in predicting which sixth graders would eventually drop out of high school. In both Philadelphia and Chicago, further skewed measures of academic performance, such as classroom grades, turned out to be better indicators than objective measures like test scores. Although low attendance is demonstrated to be a reliable indicator in nearly every study, how “low” attendance is classified can vary among districts or throughout grade levels within the same district. Although other districts can apply the predictors recognized in Chicago and Philadelphia, Jerald (2006) recommends that local education leaders strongly consider conducting their own cohort analyses to discover the most precise “high-yield” predictors for their own school systems.

* 

An important lesson can be drawn from  assessments of intervention programs sponsored by, the federal government during the 1990s, namely; that low-strength programs that offer intermittent tutoring, counseling, or actions to improve confidence—the general approach in most districts—do just about nothing to retain students in school. On the other hand, some high-intensity interventions can significantly reduce dropout rates (Dynarski and Gleason, 2004). For example, the federal School Dropout Demonstration Assistance Program evaluated the effect of eight local programs aimed at middle school students. Four programs that provided low-intensity supplemental services—such as tutoring, counseling, or workshops to enhance self-esteem or leadership skills—had no impact on dropout rates (Dynarski and Gleason). Four other programs provided more intensive services, such as smaller classes, very intensive counseling, and accelerated instruction intended to help overage students catch up with their peers. Two were designed as schools-within-schools, and two were alternative middle schools with their own campuses. Both of the alternative middle schools—one in Atlanta and the other in Flint, Michigan—dramatically reduced dropout rates and accelerated students’ progress. As the evaluators concluded, “Compared with control group students, treatment group students admitted to these programs were half as likely to drop out and completed an average of half a grade more of school” (Dynarski and Gleason).

*

Retaining Students

*** 

More than two decades ago, researchers learned that educators too frequently envision dropping out as a problem unrelated to schools, a social phenomenon they could do nothing about (Wehlage and Rutter, 1986). Researcher Melissa Roderick observed that tendency first-hand during her tenure as director of planning for the Chicago Public Schools she discovered “Educators argued vehemently that differences in the dropout rate across high schools were simply a reflection of differences in the students they served, and were not a result of any actual differences in the quality of a school’s programs, teachers, or administrators” (Roderick et al, 2004). However, recent research has challenged that supposition, indicating that educational institutions may be equally as responsible as the students, and that some schools demonstrate a greater capacity for retention than others. For example, Allensworth and Easton (2005) found that dropout rates varied widely among Chicago high schools—even after they controlled for a host of individual risk factors, including race, gender, prior academic achievement, family socioeconomic status, and whether students are overage when they enter ninth grade.

* 

Retention seems to correlate with whether schools improve or worsen the pressure of conversion years. Roderick and Camburn (1999) found that rates of ninth-grade course failure and recovery from first semester failure varied widely among Chicago high schools—above and beyond what would be expected on the basis of individual risk factors. Their analysis found that only 30 percent of the overall variation in ninth-grade course failure throughout high schools could be explained by differences in their “intake,” that is, the characteristics of entering freshmen.

* 

Other researchers have begun to learn how schools influence graduation rates. Tellingly, just as with individual risk factors, some school characteristics that are adjustable, such as curriculum and teacher-student relationships, tend to have a greater effective impact on school completion than other factors that educators would be unable to change, such as the demographic makeup of the student body and whether a school is public or private (Lee and Burkam, 2003).

* 

In general, the school characteristics that increase retention are placed in two expansive categories: cooperative environments and educational challenge. More specifically, researchers have found that students present in high schools that have fewer than 1,500 attendance days, better social relationships among their peers and adults, teachers who are more supportive of students, and a more focused, rigorous curriculum tend to drop out at lower rates (DeLuca and Rosenbaum, 2000; Croninger and Lee, 2001; Lee and Burkam, 2003).

* 

The constructive influence of being present in a school with a more encouraging setting is particularly significant. Croninger and Lee (2001) found that, other things being equal, high schools whose teachers are highly supportive of students manage to cut the probability of dropping out nearly in half. The finding held equally true for students at low, medium, and high risk of dropping out. Alternatively, academic challenge also appears to have an immense role in student retention, which might explain why many observers in and outside of schools believe there is a zero-sum tradeoff between higher academic rigor and higher graduation rates (Roderick et al, 2004).

* 

Lee and Burkam (2003) found that high schools offering a more focused and rigorous curriculum—composed mainly of academic courses with very few remedial or nonacademic courses—have significantly higher graduation rates, other things being equal. Simultaneously, other studies support the idea that curriculums ought to be appealing and pertinent to students’ interests or occupational plans. For example, a team of Johns Hopkins University researchers found that career and technical education (CTE) can boost graduation rates for some students, especially in combination with rigorous academic courses (Plank et al, 2005). Their analysis found that the ideal ratio proved to be one part career or scientific coursework to two parts academic coursework.

* 

Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation (MDRC) assessed the representative influence on dropout rates using an unusually sophisticated and rigorous experimental study design (Kemple and Snipes, 2000). Researchers tracked 1,764 students who were interested in and applied to Career Academy, 959 of whom were selected for admission and 805 of whom were not, based on a random lottery. The goal was to make certain that the treatment group and the control group were alike demographically, academically, and even motivationally. Additionally, the researchers targeted a subgroup at an extremely high risk of dropping out, on the basis of signs of poor academic performance or educational engagement. By the conclusion of their anticipated senior year, high-risk students in the Academy group were less likely to have dropped out than high-risk members of the control group (21 percent versus 32 percent, which translates into a one-third reduction in the dropout rate). (See Chart1, “Targeted Interventions Can Reduce Drop-out Rates of High-Risk Students.”)

*

Chart 1 Percent of Students Dropping Out by the 12th grade

 

Researchers also examined which parts of the Career Academy plan aided in explaining the positive effect. Greater support yielded better results in that students who had a high degree of support from teachers and peers during ninth or tenth grade were less likely to be absent excessively.  Yet, career academies that lacked support developed an increase in dropout rates.

* 

Effective intervention and prevention strategies can noticeably reduce the number of students whose risk factors are exacerbated and who drop out. However, in larger districts with high proportions of at-risk students and low graduation rates, those measures may not be enough. In order for intervention and prevention programs to be successful in these settings, a great deal of time is needed for programs to be effective.

Most dropouts deeply regret their decision to leave school (Bridgeland, 2006), and many later attempt to earn a diploma or GED (Berktold et al, 1998). Furthermore, not every dropout can be recognized by reliance on early educational warning signs. In Chicago and Philadelphia, researchers were unable to predict 15 to 20 percent of eventual drop-outs. Those students did not show any early signs, would have dropped out in the later grades, and more than likely would have earned most of the credits needed to graduate. The researchers speculated that many members of this group might be “life event” dropouts who leave because of premature transitions to adulthood, such as work or child-care responsibilities, and find it difficult to attend school full-time (Neild and Balfanz, 2006).

* 

Recovery programs allow the students a second chance to come back and show improvement.  Although little research has been done on recovery programs, an analysis conducted by New York City Department of Education’s Office of Multiple Pathways established that Transfer High Schools have a graduation rate of 56 percent, compared with a district wide rate of 19 percent for overage, under-credited youth in regular high schools (Office of Multiple Pathways, 2006). To improve these graduation rates, the District increased the number of Transfer High Schools.  In 2008, Chancellor Klein stated that transfer schools are continuing to help many of our most at-risk students get back on the path to graduation and a brighter future.  According to the Progress Reports of that same year, 41% received an A, 12 received a B (44 percent), 4 received a C (15 percent), and none received a D or an F.   In addition, more transfer schools received a grade because more have been open long enough to have a six-year graduation rate. Transfer schools do not receive grades until they have a six-year graduation rate.

* 

Notable results of this year’s transfer school Progress Reports include:

* 

  • Sixty-two percent of schools moved up at least one letter grade or earned an A for the second year in a row.
  • Three of the four schools that earned As last year earned As again this year.
  • All the schools that earned Ds and Fs last year rose at least one letter grade.
  • The average scores on 18 of the 19 measures on the Progress Report rose since last year. (The exception was the “Weighted Regents Pass Rate” in science, which declined slightly.
  • The results reflect the fact that students at transfer schools earned an average of 5 percent more credits in 2007-08 than they did in 2006-07. Students who started the year with the lowest number of credits earned an average of 7 percent more credits in 2007-08 than they did in 2006-07.

* 

On the other hand, a number of research studies on alternative schools elsewhere have yielded varying results. Mathematica, a policy and research organization, conducted an experimental study of two alternative schools—one in California and one in Kansas—via random assignments of candidates (Dynarski and Wood, 1997). After four years, one school demonstrated a positive impact on graduation rates for the handling group in comparison with the control group (17 percent versus 11 percent), but the other school did not. The researchers found that alternative schools are capable of helping students graduate at higher rates, but will not repeatedly do so.

** 

Despite the alarming nature of the problem, research carried out over the past ten years discredits the notion that schools are unable to do anything about dropping out, and suggests that districts know how to help many more young people continue in school. The knowledge base exists to identify at-risk students, and data from programs that utilize this knowledge show that intervention, recovery, and prevention can substantially reduce school leaving.

*

Conclusion

** 

This literature review presents the perceptions of collaboration, the management of collaboration and specific examples of collaboration in public education.  In addition, the literature review then presented material that explored the importance of maintaining contact with stakeholders, students, and families along with highlighted gaps in current literature.

* 

Students who drop out must adjust to returning to school if they are willing to succeed. Many students who drop out are immediately stereotyped; they do drugs, are stupid, lazy, unintelligent people, or many of the girls are pregnant or already have a child. (Dorn 1996)  They immediately lose their status in the society and some may become more dependent on their families than they were prior to dropping out.  Alternative education programs service the dropout population as well as those students who have had a difficult time in succeeding in traditional high school settings.

* 

Collaboration is an agreed system between organizations that entails compromise, production, and evaluation of obligations.  The compromises, production, and evaluation of the agreements are founded on each stakeholder’s mission and vision. This creative strain born within the course of collaboration gives collaboration its uncertain, vibrant, and multifaceted nature. Collaboration is a practice in which self-governing players interrelate through official and unofficial compromises, together developing the policies, regulations, and structures that inform their interaction and conduct, to proceed or come to a decision on the concerns that led the parties to unite; it is a process involving shared norms and mutually beneficial interactions (Thomson and Perry 2006, p. 23).

* 

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Soribel Genao, Assistant Professor, Queens College, 65-30 Kissena Blvd., Flushing, NY 11376, Tel:  718-997-5213, Fax:  718-997-5248, E-mail: sgenao@qc.cuny.edu     

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Sunglasses and Evaluation (chapter one of The Master Teacher: A Collection [y press and BCTF Lesson Aids (Vancouver, BC), 2001]), by Dan Lukiv* 

*                                                                                                                                                               Do you own a pair of sunglasses? If you do, consider putting them on...There. Does the world look different now? Let’s proceed one step further. Sunglasses come in shades of yellow, blue, red, green--and probably a great variety of other colours. Doesn’t each colour make the world look different? I could say that our choosing to wear one colour over another is arbitrary, and, therefore, how the world looks to us is arbitrary.

            We do a lot of things arbitrarily. A teacher’s choosing a method of evaluating his students is one example. In Wassermann’s case study called “It’s up to You, Mrs. Buscemi,” Mrs. Buscemi, a math teacher, chooses to evaluate her students according to a formula. In the case of a student named Adam, here is his mark calculated: “Five major tests: 50%, 37%, 42%, 48%, 40%. Assignments: 40%. Class participation: 40%. Total: 297 [divided by] 7 = 42.43%” (1993, p. 159). Call this mode of evaluation green sunglasses.

            Should that arbitrarily chosen procedure prevent Adam from entering a local college that requires (arbitrarily) a 65% score? Before you attempt to answer that question, let me add some flesh and blood to Adam’s name. Mrs. Buscemi’s principal tells her,

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            “Did you know that [Adam] had been accepted into a local community

            college, conditional on his passing all his courses? He would be the first in his

            family ever to go to college....Do you know what this means to a black family

            from the projects? It wasn’t that Adam was being lazy, or shirking. He was

            enrolled in extra courses, off campus, to make up the requirements he needed

            for college. He was also working part time [this and the previous sentence

            explain why, although Mrs. Buscemi has offered to give Adam extra help, he

            has never come to her for any]. That’s a heavy load for a grown man, let

            alone a boy of 18. Can’t you see your way clear to giving this boy a boost up

            by passing him?” (Wassermann, 1993, p. 159)

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            Is Mrs. Buscemi’s integrity as a woman of her word, of her calculation, of her evaluation, being challenged? She seems to think so. She tells her principal,

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            “If I give him a passing final grade of 65%, what does this say to the other

            students who earned grades of 65%? What does this say about any of the

            other grades I’ve given, where in-class averages are fair representations of a

            student’s work during the course?” (Wassermann, 1993, p. 160)

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            Before I continue probing Mrs. Buscemi’s dilemma, I’d like to unfold this world of evaluation, in the next two paragraphs, to present a broader view.

Mrs. Buscemi speaks of “fair representations.” But isn’t one man’s garbage another man’s treasure, and one man’s “fair” another man’s “unfair.” Do you believe that? Lev Vygotsky, the Russian education psychologist, would have argued that “traditional tests of intellectual functioning...[were] extremely limited [and unfair] because...we should be measuring...not what children can do by themselves...but rather what they can do with the help of another person [and, therefore, what they] have the potential to learn” (Berk & Winsler, 1995, p. 26). Call the traditional evaluation blue sunglasses, and call Vygotsky’s method red sunglasses.

            Let me add another view of evaluation. Kieran Egan, a well-known education theorist, explains:

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            The easiest thing to measure is what knowledge [especially factual

            knowledge] is remembered some short time after [schoolwork] is completed.

            This kind of measure accounts for a great deal of educational evaluation, and

            is taken [often too literally] as an index of the more important lesson taught

            [which could have been literary appreciation, mathematical appreciation,

            empathy, a co-operative spirit, honesty, or determination--all non-factual

            products]. (Egan, 1990, p. 53)

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In short, not only is evaluation arbitrary, sometimes it’s illogical. Is Mrs. Buscemi’s original evaluation formula illogical?

            I’ll return to her dilemma. Could she reasonably assign Adam further assignments--for extra marks--to be completed during vacation periods? If so, his extra marks could be added to his 42.43%. Call this method yellow sunglasses. Or could she re-test him, using open-book exams, for a recalculation?

            Some might balk at such a notion. Yet William Glasser presents an interesting argument in favour of teachers’ using open-book tests:

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            Most tests depend upon memory; reference materials are not allowed. I

            would hate to drive over a bridge, work in a building, or fly in an airplane

            designed by engineers who depended only upon memory. Engineers utilize

            handbooks and tables to look up important but hard-to-remember details. In

            my medical training, I have seen experienced surgeons call for a surgical

            book to be brought to the operating room when they were faced with an

            unfamiliar situation. (1969, p. 72)

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If Mrs. Buscemi chooses to re-test Adam, using open-book exams, possibly allowing her to replace his original five major test scores of 50%, 37%, 42%, 48%, and 40% with higher scores, then call her new method of evaluation purple sunglasses.

            How many other colours of sunglasses are there? Lots? Infinitely lots? And as for the colours I mentioned--green, blue, red, yellow, and purple--what are your preferences? Mine are...um, who really cares?1 The point is: our choosing one mode of evaluation over another is arbitrary, and just as one colour of sunglasses over another makes the world look one way rather than another, that mode of evaluation arbitrarily affects what grade a student receives.

            What would you do in Adam’s case?

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  Footnote

*                                                                                                                                                                                                                   1I will, however, describe one of my principal’s of instruction that directs what modes of evaluation I decide to use: “[The teacher] lets [students] know that ‘there is no such thing as a low grade that cannot be improved’” (Glasser, 1977, p. 602).

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 References

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Berk, L. E., & Winsler, A. (1995). Scaffolding children's learning: Vygotsky and early childhood education. Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children.

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Egan, K. (1990). Teaching as story telling: An alternative approach to teaching and curriculum in the elementary school (3rd ed.). London, ON: The Althouse Press.

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Glasser, W. (1969). Schools without failure. NY: Harper & Row, Publishers.

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Glasser, W. (1977, April). A new look at school failure and school success. Phi Delta Kappan, 597-602.

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Wassermann, S. (1993). Getting down to cases. NY: Teachers College Press.