Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Student retention - not a simple matter

"There is a simple solution to every question - and it is usually wrong" And this certainly applies to the issue of student retention.
In the school context, retention is about constructive engagement in learning and involvement in the life and work of the school community.
Schools begin working on retention well before students start school through 0-4 programs such a
  • parent-Child Groups,
  • pre-Kinder sessions,
  • early intervention
  • ...
And retention means different things for different people. For different students it can be about
  • getting to school
  • being in class
  • staying in class
  • managing well in the playground
  • initiating assistance when the going gets tough
  • coping with the everyday ups and downs as they occur in the life and work of the school
  • support for the student
  • support for the family
  • support for the school
  • support for the community
  • ...
So for different students, retention can be a matter of
  • readiness to participate, e.g., 'At school, on time, ready for work'
  • moment-by-moment participation in the school: getting through
    • a lesson
    • a break
    • a day, a week, a term, a year, K-12, a course
    • a transition (making it to high school, post year 10, university, employment, community and society...)
  • engagement - being there is not enough
  • attendance - sufficient continuity to ensure success and well-being
  • enrolment - being in the right place in the system
  • ...
After students begin school there are numerous efforts to retain students according to their needs through
  • Monitoring and supporting attendance
  • Provision of quality teaching and curriculum*
  • Feeding and clothing students
  • Transport arrangements
  • Family support programs and services
  • Other family focused initiatives
  • The provision of programs to meet special needs
  • Teacher aide support for special needs
  • Playground support
  • Linking to other agencies and support programs
  • Course counselling and selection services
  • Alternative (out of school) programs and support
  • Social skills and intra-personal skills programs
  • ...

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Rewards, compliance and the world

Many young students are reward orientated, as we know. If they remains so, then there is a huge challenge for all concerned:

The world does not give rewards because people need them. It gives rewards because it wants something from them. That means that the recipient of the reward has something to offer, and that the offering will be made in a acceptable form.

Despite our protestation to the contrary, the world does not bother much with getting people to comply.

Certainly there are some rewards for compliance per se, but those that do exist (Rating One on car insurance, for example) are often long term, not immediate.

There are basically two responses the world makes to non-compliance:

  • punishment, as in demerit points or fines... , or
  • marginalisation, e.g., when non-complying people are simply overlooked and or ignored.

This could mean that as well as focusing on enabling a student to be successful in school right now we might also need to be

  • projecting forward several years to what is likely to be working best for him/her then
  • working out how we can help ensure that he/she will get there