Insider Perspectives on the School Dropout Crisis
Nichols, Paul Deighton
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University of Washington Abstract Insider Perspectives on the School Dropout Crisis Paul D. Nichols Chairperson of the Supervisory Committee Professor Geneva Gay College of Education The major purpose of this study was to examine the dropout crisis in the U. S. and to examine it through the experiences and perspectives of three African American, three Native American and three Latino American males. This study sought to investigate the causes of dropping out and to consider viable alternative means of educating dropouts. Through having high school male dropouts re-imagine and reflect on their school experiences, the study attempted to get to the root of the dilemma for its participants. The questions the participants answered were: How do African American, Native American and Latino males who dropped out of high school, account for their lack of academic success in the school environment? To what extent and in what ways do they locate their school failure in their own efforts and actions, or in other forces and conditions, such as the nature of the school, the curriculum, and the instructional process, their socio-economic status and other conditions of their lives? There is a second set of questions that re-focuses the line of questioning on the dropouts experiences. These questions attempt to uncover what they perceive could have gone differently in their schooling with a more successful outcome. Some of the questions explore, what do they think could have changed their academic outcomes in high school? How much of their success would they attribute to their teachers and the instruction they received? How much do they attribute to their own initiative? What do they perceive would have been effective methods of instruction for them? Data was collected through semi-structured interviews. These interviews were 45-minutes to one hour in length. Embedded in these questions were prompts to get the participants to share their perceptions of what could have been done differently to have changed their academic outcomes in high school. They types of data analysis were descriptive, explanatory and conceptual. Relationships amongst issues of interest were noted, their influence on outcomes was observed and conceptual and theoretical conclusions were drawn. The summary and findings suggest that participants have a strong desire to learn. They need instruction that is differentiated, one-on-one and more culturally responsive and relevant to their lives. Additionally, they need alternatives to their traditional schooling and more instructional support.
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