Ben Davis is a School Reform Blogging Fellow.

Can dropping out of high school be the right decision for some people?

Throughout high school, it never once crossed my mind to drop out. I had too many reasons to stay: my parents, personal ambitions and my high school’s positive, supportive culture, to name a few. But not all students share my perspective, I’ve learned. Just recently I stumbled across the fictional group Ed Zed Omega, a collaborative thought experiment on what it means to drop out of high school. And the project lives entirely online. Check it out. But first some thoughts from the blogging trenches…

Each of the six Ed Zed Omega students dropped out for a simple reason: he or she felt their high school failed to meet their basic individual needs (an interesting take). And the Ed Zed Omega’s aside, we know that Minnesota now has some of the worst graduation rates for students of color in the United States. As a system, we fail many kids. But with the Ed Zed Omegas, I gleaned that some participants felt the one-size-fits-all models of many high schools did little to bring out their unique qualities, such as the arts.

I’d like to think critically about the fundamental task of education. How do we, as a culture, engage students and shine a light on their individual qualities, but also pair that with fundamental and foundational standards so all kids leave high school ready for success? I don’t personally advise that students drop out of school. Research shows dropouts make less money, are more likely to be arrested, and add to taxes by increasing healthcare costs. Instead of dropping out, perhaps we can better connect at-risk students to alternative educational options. For example, through independent study (e.g., Ed Zed Omegas), PSEO (a solution for students who might be bored) or online classes, students can continue learning outside of the traditional high school setting. If students reflect on these experiences, they could provide that feedback to their schools to further strengthen student learning down the road. 

I support alternative education options as mentioned above, especially with recent headlines that Minnesota has nation-trailing graduation gaps. That said, basic reading, writing and math skills are–and always will be–vital to preparing kids for success, even for frustrated students. Why? … Dropping out of school is not a solution. Going to college, attaining a degree and using those skills to become a teacher or reformer to improve our system is a solution. While the fictional Ed Zed Omegas inspire others to learn in a controversial manner, I encourage the public to view these students as case studies.

At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that we share the same goal: to make sure all students receive the best possible education.  

Ben Davis is a School Reform Blogging Fellow.

Image credit: Ed Zed Omegas.



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