Blogs on Dropout Prevention

Blogs on Dropout PreventionRSS
Mark PhillipsMarch 20, 2014

It's a small town in southern Indiana's beautiful farm country. Once a thriving metropolis, it's now one of many across America that economic forces have reduced to struggling for survival. The local high school population, reduced to a handful of kids, refuses to surrender its identity by being absorbed into a large consolidated school district. Formerly the town's greatest pride and still a center of hope that holds it together is the high school basketball team. Their record last year was 0-22.

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For the last ten years, we've worked one-on-one with students from elementary school through graduate school. No matter their age, no matter the material, when you ask what they're struggling with, students almost universally name a subject: "math," "English" or, in some instances, "school." Doubting that all of school is the issue, we then ask to see their last test. After some grumbling, the student digs down, deep into the dark, dank recesses of his or her backpack, and pulls out a balled-up, lunch-stained paper that, once smoothed out, turns out to be the latest exam.

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Mark PhillipsFebruary 25, 2014

I love movies and have always envied Academy Award voters. So here's my chance! I am giving out my own Edutopia version of the 2014 Academy Awards for Educational Documentaries.

And since this is the first time I'm doing this, I'm taking the liberty of extending eligibility to 2012 films as well. It seems unfair to bypass recent excellent films still playing in 2014.

Following are my Educational Documentary Academy Awards for 2014. I've watched over a dozen this year, a comment itself on the proliferation of educational documentaries. These are my favorites.

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Lori DesautelsDecember 19, 2013

Walking into the kitchen, she spots the community college acceptance letter on top of a stack of mail. Early in December, the Marine Corps notifies him that basic training starts in six months. She's dreamed about attending her mom's alma mater for the last few years, and admissions has responded positively. The auto shop where he's had an afterschool job since junior year has just promised full-time employment beginning two weeks after graduation.

Now what?

This question concerns me as an educator of K-12 and higher education.

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Mark PhillipsOctober 21, 2013

I posted a blog a few weeks ago in which I mentioned two films that renewed my faith in public education. That post focused on the film The New Public. The second of those films is The Graduates, an Independent Lens documentary that will be shown on PBS, the first segment on October 28 and the second on November 4. I want to share with you why I am so high on this film.

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Seth LindenOctober 11, 2013

Several things become apparent after tutoring for 20 years. For one, the number of students working with tutors continues to grow. Two, working 1:1 with students is immensely gratifying, both for the tutor and tutee. And three, a few specific yet generalized characteristics become crystalized about all successful tutors.

Personalized tutoring fills a niche that can't be filled in today's schools alone. Tutoring is becoming more common in schools with blended learning programs. The Gates Foundation is giving grants to innovative online tutoring companies like and Khan Academy. More and more parents and educators are realizing that tutoring gets to the heart of learning, personalizing the meaning and instruction of the subject at hand. With all the distraction in today's hyper-technological world, some face-to-face interaction through mentoring, tutoring and coaching is exactly what students need most.

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Matt DavisOctober 4, 2013

Restorative justice empowers students to resolve conflicts on their own, and it's growing in practice at schools around the country. Essentially, the idea is to bring students together in peer-mediated small groups to talk, ask questions and air their grievances. (This overview from Fix School Discipline is a wonderful primer.)

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Judy Willis MDOctober 2, 2013

Public high school students in large U.S. cities are more likely to drop out than ever before. Almost 80 percent of the students report that the main problem is boredom. When asked what bores them most, the most frequent responses were that the course material is neither interesting nor relevant to their lives.

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Mark PhillipsAugust 9, 2013

I'm sure that most of you are familiar with J.D. Salinger's classic novel, The Catcher in the Rye, and its memorable protagonist, Holden Caulfield. I was drawn back to the book recently, thinking about the catchers in the rye that I've observed in schools.

Take a moment to revisit Holden's poignant fantasy with me.

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Robyn GeeJuly 12, 2013

I remember the first student I ever suspended. He was 13 years old.

It started off as a minimal disruption. He was stealing pencils from other students at his table. That turned into breaking pencils. Then, stealing homework.

Determined not to let him derail the entire class, I changed his seat. I went over to him, and quietly said, "Can you tell me what's up? I know you can behave better than this." He swore at me in two languages.

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