Creating the Dropout: An Institutional and Social History of School Failure

By Sherman Dorn | Go to book overview

5
The Limits of Dropout Programs

Programs for school dropouts . . . are mushrooming at a hurried pace, close to the point of overlapping in large urban centers.

-- Charles Savitzky, Job Guidance and the Disadvantaged

By 1965, many school districts were operating programs they called "dropout prevention." The NEA, the U. S. Office of Education, and other organizations published several bibliographies on the subject in the mid-1960s, lists that included surveys of programs supposedly designed to attack the dropout problem ( L. Miller 1965; Miller, Saleem, and Bryce 1964; Varner 1967). Dropout programs, which followed the rise in concern over the dropout problem, shared several traits with the conventional wisdom about dropping out. While recommendations, proposals, and operating programs rarely matched precisely, most programs shared at least a few assumptions with the national literature on high school dropouts. Job-training programs implied that anyone with skills could get a job. Counseling programs assumed that the problem with potential dropouts was their inability to adjust to school. Public relations campaigns implied that if dropouts returned to school, the dropout problem would largely disappear. As well as reflecting the naiveté of dropout stereotypes, the dropout programs of the 1960s reflected the institutional structures within which they operated. The programs rarely fulfilled their advocates' wishes, either in scope or in the nature of programs. Constrained by budget limits, informal protocol, and often contradictory demands of sponsors and clients, programs failed to eliminate dropping out.

Dropout prevention programs were far too small to counter other policies that encouraged or coerced students to leave school. To be blunt, dropout projects

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Creating the Dropout: An Institutional and Social History of School Failure
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Tables vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Long-Term Demographic Patterns 11
  • 2 - The Changing Mission of High Schools 33
  • 3 - Early Attitudes toward Attrition 51
  • 4 - Social Dynamite 65
  • 5 - The Limits of Dropout Programs 81
  • 6 - Omissions 99
  • 7 - Dropout Tides 119
  • 8 - The Demeaning Dropout Debate 131
  • Bibliography 147
  • Index 165
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