Ran across a post about a study that found the most common reason for high school dropouts.

Reasons cited – emphasis mine:

  1. Toxic environment outside of school – student experiencing violence or other issue at home
  2. Relationships with others – failure of a student to connect with an adult at the school
  3. Lack of support – “The salience of school isn’t there because of what’s happening outside the school building, and they aren’t finding the supports they need within school…”

Wow – I sure sense one thing here: Let’s blame everything EXCEPT the school.

Each of these reasons points to an external cause of the student leaving school. Did it ever occur to them that the reason might be school itself?

I see this happening right before my eyes. My daughter was very serious this summer about not returning to school. She is not suffering any violence at home, connects with many adults at school, and I think the salience of school isn’t because of what’s happening outside of school, but rather because of what’s happening inside of school.

One commenter points out the possibility of undiagnosed learning disabilities. In our case, they have been diagnosed, but she’s had little support at school. We’ve done a tremendous amount away from school, but very little has happened at school.

She feels — and I see — very little salience for school in the outside world. What she learns and does in school has no meaning to what she sees outside. It feels irrelevant.

Talk about toxic environment. The vast majority of assessments are bubble tests. She doesn’t happen to be good at taking bubble tests… so every time she turns around she’s getting a failing grade. There are 2000 kids in her school – it’s loud, chaotic, and can be violent. She feels trapped, has no control over her life there.

Fortunately there is one adult who has made it worth her while to be there. Let’s hope it’s enough to ensure she finishes.

The 5 Most Dangerous Creativity Killers – 99U

Interesting post: “The 5 Most Dangerous Creativity Killers” from 99U.

I saw this in an email for museum professionals, but how does it apply to learners in school — both the adult and kid learners?

The five “creativity killers” sound very much like the traditional school system:

  1. Role Mismatch: the post uses the Einstein quote about judging a fish on its ability to climb a tree, comparing that to the workplace. While we need to be sure to challenge learners to new things, we also need to be sure that they are in a place and role where they are comfortable. Why can’t we allow students to do different types of projects? Why do they all have to take the same assessment? Some learners might be better suited to writing while others are better suited to visuals.
  2. External End-Goal Restriction: wow, that sounds like school to me! The “end goal” is almost always restricted by an external source – whether it’s a state telling teachers what to teach or what tests to give, or a teacher telling learners exactly what to learn and exactly how to demonstrate that learning. According to the post, “external restrictions are almost always a bad thing for creative thinking.”
  3. Strict Ration of Resources: in this case, mental resources, especially time, is the most important resources. Schools are always so crunched for time because are required to get through and extraordinary amount of material for the “standards.” Learners are overloaded with homework from a number or classes, and the perception is that college admission requires a zillion hours of extracurriculars, volunteering and a full slate of AP classes. There is no time remaining to be creative or do much beyond rote. Schools also have a very set time schedule: be here at 8:10, do algebra until 9:05, etc. Why do we expect all learners to need the same amount of time?
  4. Lack of Social Diversity: Yup, let’s put all kids who were born in this set time frame together because that means they’ll be at the same place. Well, no. Why do we assume that just because a child is 7 that they should be at point A in reading, B in math? While I do feel that it is often – not always – important for learners to be with others who are at the same place (e.g. learners who need to move quickly through content or those who need a different pace or approach), it does not mean all of the same age.
  5. Discouragement/No Positive Feedback: Wow — can we say schools? Testing? While some students may get positive feedback from scoring 95% on all the tests, there are far more students who get negative feedback from testing and just being in school day after day. Why not allow for mastery of content with assessments that allow for redoing tests, doing projects that fit or challenge, or doing real world projects that have real impact?

I’m going to go looking for the post about the 5 Things that Encourage Creativity.