Sunday, April 26, 2009


Last week, I read an article about the Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation's findings on the educational disrepair of the Memphis City School system. They reported that, based on their own independent statistics, Memphis City Schools has a 51% graduation rate. This was different than the in-house statistics released that said that MCS has a 66.9% graduation rate. (Graduation rate = complete high school in 4 years - depending on who does the statistics, it can include GED too).

There was all sorts of talk about what the discrepancy in statistical findings was... but to me, that all is beside the point. Out of all students in the MCS system, anywhere from 1 in 2 to 1 in 3 will not graduate on time if at all. At the high school where I teach in the MCS system, we have the highest graduation rate (89%) but some high schools were extremely low, one even in the 30's.

After reading about this, I set out to have a little life lesson with my students Thursday. I found mean salaries based on education level, as well as specific annual salaries for a few positions I knew they would be interested in. We talked about how they always complain that we are hard on them compared to other schools but that at the other schools, graduation rates were so much lower. We talked about how for most, school isn't a priority. I have learned in this past year that many of my kids will never be intrinsically motivated to learn like most people I grew up with. I instead have to find some external motivator for their learning - in this case, it was money. The difference in average salary even with just a high school degree was amazing - one source cited the annual salary of a high school dropout to be 17,000$, whereas someone with just a high school degree was making 35,000$ a year.

I really enjoyed speaking with my kids on something that I feel is so relevant to them. The reality is that while many of their family members did not graduate HS, they won't be able to have the lifestyle they would like if they do not graduate. Especially in a society where more and more people have access to college, they are lagging behind automatically if they do not get some sort of post-secondary training.

Next fall, my school is starting a class called "Advisory Period." With the block schedule, we'll be able to have more extracurriculars in their schedule and so 9th graders will be assigned to a whole hour and a half block of advisory. I think we are being supplied a curriculum and I am very excited about potential plans for this. I hope that it is carried through well and that people really invest time into it - I've seen many good ideas fail around school because people halfway did it.

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