19 Urban Questions: Teaching in the City

By Shirley R. Steinberg; Joe L. Kincheloe | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FOUR

Urban Dropouts:
Why So Many and
What Can Be Done?

Florence Rubinson

Ricardo's story is distressing but similar to the experience of many urban adolescents for whom leaving school represents the culmination of a long process of disengagement. For these students, disengagement is the result of a combination of their marginalized status in society and institutional neglect on the part of the schools they attend.

Ricardo began kindergarten enthusiastic and eager to learn. His first-grade teacher became concerned when Ricardo was not learning to read at the expected pace. In third grade, Ricardo was evaluated for special education but did not receive services. Instead, the school retained him that same year. Throughout his remaining elementary and middle school years, Ricardo struggled with academics, and he had acquired only six credits over the past four years of high school. Because he remained a poor reader, he spent a good deal of time in remedial classes that did not yield high school credit. In October of what should have been his senior year, Ricardo and his mother were summoned by the guidance counselor and informed that Ricardo was being discharged and referred to a vocational training center. His mother insisted that Ricardo needed more time to acquire the credits necessary to graduate and demanded her son's legal right to remain in school until he was twenty-one. Ricardo, too, wanted to remain in high school and promised to dutifully attend class and complete homework, in contrast to his recent behavior. The counselor responded by informing both student and parent that even if Ricardo stayed in school until his twenty-first birthday and dutifully fulfilled his obligations, he could not possibly acquire the necessary credits or pass

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