In our Sunday's extensive listening series we turn to the educational system in the US to watch a thirteen-minute clip from PBS's Frontline, Middle School Moment, which is part of an initiative to help local communities across America identify and implement solutions to address the dropout crisis.
This is the way PBS describes the documentary:
In this clip "Dr. Robert Balfanz reveals a series of indicators that he says can predict how likely a student is to drop out of high school: attendance, behavior and course performance, which he describes as the 'ABCs.'
In high-poverty schools, if a sixth grade child attends less than 80 percent of the time, receives an unsatisfactory behavior grade in a core course, or fails math or English, there is a 75 percent chance that they will later drop out of high school — absent effective intervention.
Middle schools are generally designed to give younger kids a more intensive level of support. If intervention doesn’t occur until high school, Balfanz says it becomes much harder to 'turn kids around and put them back on track.'
Why Middle School?
For most students, the process of dropping out begins in middle school, when Balfanz says the habits that predict whether or not a student graduates are formed, making it a critical 'make or break' period.
And for children in high-poverty areas, the stage can also bring significant new challenges: a 12-year-old girl might become the emergency day care for her family; the children of immigrants may be pulled out of school to be translators; with money tight, children might become involved in the family business. Meanwhile, at this stage adolescents become more vulnerable to gangs, criminal activity, drugs and substance abuse.
Despite it being a critical period, Balfanz says that the 'powerful learning time' that occurs in middle school has been neglected by recent reforms, such as President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind program, which targeted elementary schools, or other programs that have focused on high schools.
You can read about the US educational system here.
You can read the transcript of the documentary here or activate the CC captions on the lower side of the screen.