What are the factors influencing the high dropout rate? How do we decrease the number of students dropping out of school? These are questions often brought up in council meetings, state board meetings, and questions by which scholars writing and conducting research in the field have tried to answer. Parental involvement or lack thereof, familial responsibilities, school or institutional climate have been just a few factors that have been thought to influence the rates of students not moving forward in their education. Though the above information is important in that one, attention is placed on the matter so as to reveal its urgency and two, it provides research from where to work from, there are other factors that must not be dismissed. This examination thus becomes even more complex, as these need to be carried out on an individual level.
For decades, scholars have engaged in research with the intent of deciphering the specific factors that influence academic retention and persistence among minority students. Such information becomes instrumental in keeping and retaining students in college. Steering through the “leaky” academic “funnel,” as Tierney puts it, however, becomes the greatest challenge in retaining students. A senior university administrator added to this analogy by stating, “We lose students everywhere…not enough of them get in the pipeline to begin with, and then those that do get in, drip out here and there so almost nobody gets through” (as cited in Tierney 18). One must then analyze what parts of the institution’s academic structure are effective and which should be further explored. In doing so, students need not be categorized under the same umbrella term, “minority,” as the personal, social and academic variables among different groups vary. Minority students, Latinos, African American and Native American, especially, must not only undergo the economic difficulties but must also attempt to extend beyond the educational pipeline of students who cannot pursue a higher education beyond high school. In keeping this in mind, it becomes even more important to take on this information and rather than referencing the cultural deficit model to even begin looking into ways of approaching this issue, it is important to look at what is working and not working in academia. The cultural deficit model is the “perspective that minority group members are different because their culture is deficient in important ways from the dominant majority group” (Salkind). In using such model as the framework for analysis, we are already ascribing deficiencies, or shortages on student ability. So, why not start looking at approaches that work and work from here?
When we look at the academic trajectory of all those teachers who have been nominated for the National Teacher of the year and most importantly, those teachers who are commitment to student teaching and resilience, a pattern is easily recognizable. Rebecca Mieliwocki, a California State University, Northridge and 2007 National Teacher of the Year recipient, for example, categorizes students as “seekers,” who must “seek to find each resource within that child and to recognize their talent and capacity” to teach (PBS NewsHour). From her statement, we can understand that a passive instructional guide can often lead to a passive student who involuntarily remains stagnant in what they are learning. Retrospectively, a student who is stimulated to think critically is more likely to remain in school and persist. It is then that we can think of students as independent writers and thinkers.
Critical thinking and effective classroom pedagogy thus become essential ways of evaluating lesson plans and classroom curricula. The question that follows is, how do we teach students to think critically and rhetorically? It would be difficult to attempt an answer to all of the questions asked thus far without mentioning Paulo Freire. His scholarship looks at classroom pedagogy as complex and non-linear in form. As Freire provides, “Critical reflection on practice is a requirement of the relationship between theory and practice. Otherwise theory becomes simply "blah, blah, blah," and practice, pure activism.” Such statement not only places emphasis on the relationship between theory and in putting this theory into practice, but it also calls into question the approaches teachers are taking in linking these through language, rhetoric and technology.
By offering interpretations that date back to the times of Plato and Aristotle and bridging these with modern day classroom instruction, this site intends to contextualize classroom instruction with our ever-changing digitally rich environments.
PBS NewsHour. “2012 Teacher of the Year on What Helps Students Succeed” YouTube. YouTube, 26 Sep 2006. Web. 9 May 2014.
Salkind, Neil. “Cultural Deficit Model.” Encyclopedia of Educational Psychology (2008): 217-218. SAGE. Web. 9 May 2014.
Tierney, William G.. Official Encouragement, Institutional Discouragement: Minorities in Academe-The Native American Experience. Norwood, New Jersey: Alex PC, 1992. Print.