Chapter 12 - Solving the dropout dilemma

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Solving the dropout dilemma


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classed as underachievers. "When we have targeted that group of youngsters," says Brown, "we can demonstrate two things: first, that the overall group mark goes up, but that the bottom third mark goes up faster than that."
  In one of the schools using these two systems, "average" students have increased their grade in standardized national exams from 50 percent to 70 percent. And one-time slow learners have increased their average of 37 percent to better than 63 percent. 21

4. Six-week courses build success step by step
  Another New Zealand high school has dramatically improved students' job prospects by offering a wide range of concentrated courses that each require only six weeks' study.
  Tikipunga High School is in the northern city of Whangarei, centered on an area with high unemployment. Over 78 percent of its families live on welfare benefits - the typical recipe for educational disaster.
  Tikipunga has reversed this outcome by planning for step-by-step success. "Our experience has shown us," says former principal Edna Tait, "that even the most able students respond more positively to a short-term learning span, with a very clear set of goals, that are described, so they can achieve them; and knowing that at the end of that six weeks they will receive a statement which describes very precisely the achievements that they have made in a particular area of learning."22
  Students take standard subjects like English, math, science and social studies, and every one learns basic computer skills in a series of six-week courses. Then they have a wide choice: they can take a six-week course in welding, cooking, car repairs, videotape production and woodworking or, for a career servicing the tourist industry, they can take a six-week course in bone-carving souvenirs. The school also has a great interest in art; original works by local painters line its corridors. And Tikipunga has an amazing 90 percent pass rate in national art examinations.
  Edna Tait stresses that Tikipunga's assessment system is not a pass-fail system. The statements at the end of each six weeks explain exactly what each student has achieved.
  And virtually anybody can take any unit - whether aged 15 or 50. "We've had one 82-year-old woman in a third form (9th grade) Maori class, and she was a joy to work with." One big benefit of the six-week modules: it's easy to redo a module if you feel you need more experience.


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