Youth who come from low-income families or challenging environments have plenty to deal with, and yet this group of students still must endure the preconceived notions and low expectations sometimes perpetuated by educators, learning institutions, communities and society as a whole. These young people are up against a lot, and the odds aren't in their favor.
The recent record-high high school graduation rate and the academic gains made by Latino and African-American students1 demonstrate how our nation is making exciting progress. When invested in and given the opportunity, these students can excel academically.
The following debunks five common misconceptions about disadvantaged youth. At-risk students with nontraditional backgrounds can become successful second-chance learners, and they can help shape the future of our communities and workforces.
They Are Unmotivated and Disengaged
Unsurprisingly, unmotivated and disengaged students do poorly in school and have low attendance, and many eventually stop coming to school altogether. These students may be unmotivated and disengaged, but the lack of motivation and engagement is a side effect of circumstances they have no control over. As a result, they are discounted and even punished.
The timing just isn't right for these individuals to make education a top priority. But that doesn't mean these young people don't naturally have the motivation and yearning to learn deep within their core, ready to use as fuel when the right time and opportunity arises. To re-engage students, educators must practice persistence no matter how much push-back you get. Allow students to realize you’re not going anywhere. Keep in mind that one-third of high-risk children will beat the odds and lead healthy, productive lives -- help them get there.
They Lack the Capacity to Learn
In an effort to dispel myths about education, TeachThought argued this statement: The disadvantaged don't have the same capacity to learn. Lack of intellect or the incapacity to learn can't be blamed for a disadvantaged student's poor performance. Disparities within educational systems, such as unqualified, inexperienced and underpaid educators teaching in predominantly black and Latino schools, for example, can greatly affect student outcomes.2
According to a report by the Department of Education based on data from 97,000 public schools and representing 49 million students, black students were four times more likely than white students to attend a school where less than 80 percent of the teachers were certified, and Latinos were twice as likely to attend these schools.3 Along with ill-equipped teachers in certain school systems, low-level curriculum, low standards and limited courses can also affect a student's ability to learn.
They Are Withdrawn
Students — especially those with personal struggles at home — need support and guidance to thrive. In fact, young people yearn for supportive connections from parents, family, school professionals and peers, according to a report from America's Promise Alliance and its Center for Promise.4 Without a positive presence or influential connection from a teacher or parent, students become withdrawn, which eventually leads to low attendance and non-completion. If students feel like school professionals don't care, invest or believe in them, then these students respond by not caring, investing in education or believing in themselves, either.
Provide connection and support through approaches like student services, mentorship initiatives and programs dedicated to re-engagement and outreach.
They Choose to Drop Out
In the literal sense, yes, non-completers make the decision to leave high school, or are forced out. But many of these teens leave school because they feel they have no other choice or better alternative. Despite recognizing the value of earning a high school diploma, other priorities take precedence, like working full-time to support their family, taking care of an ill family member or becoming a young parent. As students struggle with overwhelming life circumstances (such as homelessness or parent incarceration), eventually a particular breaking point causes them to sacrifice school.4 Re-engage these students with dropout retrieval programs like the successful Fresh Start program in Polk County, Florida.
They Are Doomed to Fail
Once a high school dropout, always a dropout.
False. "High school dropouts" aren't destined for a life of chronic hardship and unemployment. Given the opportunity, many non-completers become successful second-chance learners who overcome failure and display incredible amounts of resiliency.
To bounce back, however, non-completers need an opportunity. They need a flexible, individualized academic alternative designed to meet their needs. The Dropout Retrieval Solution is one solution that provides a blended learning approach to maximize a student's learning experience. This type of diploma program helps set students up for success while fostering critical thinking. Students build confidence, learn to set (and achieve) goals and find their way to a brighter future.
Recommended for You: 3 Ways to Keep Your Students On Track to Graduate
Resources: Photo (1) Building a Grad Nation (2) 18 Myths About Education That Are All Too Easy To Believe (3) Education racial gap wide as ever according to NAEP (4) Don't Call Them Dropouts: Understanding the Experiences of Young People Who Leave High School Before Graduation