America's Hope: Making Schools Work for All Children

Article excerpt

Educators recognize that students dropping out of school is one of the most difficult challenges facing our public school system. The highest rate of growth population in the future will be among the very groups who have been served least by our public school system. This paper outlines what school officials con do to decrease the dropout rate. The suggestions for dropout prevention include modifying the instructional environment, strengthening school membership, developing school board policies, using the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, and mentoring.

In the past 25 years, there has been growing interest in the quality of American public schools, especially as it relates to the issue of school dropouts (Bonilla, 1993; Kelly & Gaskel, 1996; Waggoner, 1991). But despite the best efforts to stem the flow of students leaving high school prior to graduation, students continue to drop out (Education Department, Office of Educational Research and Improvement, National Center for Education Research Statistics, 1997; Gordon Press Publishers, 1998, Kaufman, 1998).

One important aspect of effective dropout prevention is identification of students who are most likely to drop out (Kronick & Hargis, 1998; Morton, 1998; Skromme, VanAllen, & Bensen, 1998). Clearly, we want to know that our dropout prevention programs are targeting the students who are most at risk (Bonilla & Goss, 1997; Brusca-Vega, Yawkey, & Gonzalez, 1996; McWhirter, 1997; Peterson, 1998; Sprick, Sprick, & Garrison, 1998).

Growing Cultural Diversity

The 21st century will see greater ethnic and cultural diversity in the United States than in any other period in American history (Naylor, 1997; Sitarem & Prosser, 1998). The highest rate of growth population in the future will be among the groups who have been served least well by our public schools (Lunenburg & Irby, 1999; Lunenburg & Ornstein, 2000). Although the majority of today's American schoolchildren are white, the past ten years have seen a rapid increase in the number of immigrant and minority students. For example, in 1980 one out of every five students belonged to a minority group. Today, that number has increased to more than one in four. And according to estimates, nearly one in three American schoolchildren will fall within the Census Bureau's designation of "minority" by the year 2010 (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1991).

The increase in cultural diversity over the past decade is the result of immigration from non-European countries, resulting from the Immigration Act of 1965 (U.S. Bureau of the Census, Economics and Statistics Administration, 1991). According to the Population Reference Bureau (1999), the number of school-age immigrant children in America has risen to between 2.5 and 2.9 million, with the largest numbers of immigrants coming from Mexico, Asia, Central and South America, and the Caribbean.

The United States will continue to grow, and immigration will continue to be a major source of that growth. Furthermore, growth will be concentrated in nonwhite populations in the suburbs of the 50 largest metropolitan areas. "Peripheral Cities" (self-contained suburbs outside the metropolitan centers) will become common. This phenomenon will lead to further destruction of the inner cities as financial resources, talent, and industry continue to move to the suburbs and Peripheral Cities. The problem of retaining and attracting middle classes of whatever racial and ethic group back to the inner cities will become difficult if not impossible to achieve (Hodgkinson, 1998a). Moreover, since most voters will live in the suburbs contiguous to the 50 largest metropolitan areas, it will be easier for most political leaders to ignore inner city schools -- the schools that most need assistance from the state and federal government.

A Demographic Look at Tomorrow

The nation increased by 22.1 million persons in 1990, reaching a total of 248. …