'Regular' schooling isn't preventing dropouts, but alternative education could. So what are we doing?
Turns out treating students like individuals instead of like products is better for graduation rates.
What if I told you that if America cuts the number of high school dropouts it currently has in half, its economy could be projected to net gain about $1 trillion over 10 years?
According to economics experts Henry M. Levin and Cecilia E. Rouse and their calculations, that just might be right.
Half the dropouts equals $1 TRILLION net gain in America's economy in 10 years. It's a theory, but it's a theory made of math and studied by Levin and Rouse in a piece they wrote in The New York Times called "The True Cost of High School Dropouts."
In his TED Talk on a similar topic, Sir Ken Robinson mentions this high cost of dropouts as well as a few ideas on how to lower that cost by lowering the number of dropouts in America.
So how do we stop the dropouts, Sir Robinson?
Here's what he thinks might work: Quit making alternative education programs the "alternative."
Non-alternative education, or what we currently think of as the "normal" way of doing things in American education, encourages a kind of conformity. Yes, we all need to learn to add and read; that's a good thing to conform to. But as it is, education is forcing a lot of American kids to pour themselves into a one-size-only mold. The result is that (too many) children just jump out of the mold entirely.
Alternative education programs, however, tell a different story. They're set up not as mechanical molding systems, but human systems. Take the University of Minnesota's Check and Connect dropout prevention program. It involves paying attention to the individual student's story if they're seen to be at risk for dropout — that's the "check" part — and then a large chunk of the program is personalized solutions and individual care for the student.
Robinson visited such alternative education programs in his hometown of Los Angeles, California.
A personal, autonomous, diverse education system with strong support for teachers and very close ties to the community? If that's alternative education, then I don't wanna be normal. Do you?
"What's interesting to me is that these are called 'alternative education.' And all the evidence from around the world is that if we all did that, there'd be no need for the alternative."
For more on how Robinson sees America gaining that cool trillion, watch this video. It ends on a really inspirational Ben Franklin quote that only really hits home if you watch all 20 minutes.