Saturday, March 31, 2007

High School Dropouts - It Ain't Sew Badd?

At a school meeting recently the subject of dropouts came up and one teacher suggested providing incentives to keep the kids in school.

Now that I am studying, researching, testing, observing and assessing “Early Childhood” behavior I am more convinced that teachers, parents, coaches and to some extent peers drive out the intrinsic motivation that each child has when starting school as early as the Pre-K level (not a new discovery by any means, but it helps me understand the end-to-end education system from an application view and not just theory). We are taking from our children the chance to experience “Joy of Learning” (Dr. Deming). These types of suggestions are alarming to me because the education system is following the same pattern as big business. Incentives, rewards, etc... are extrinsic motivators that drive the wrong behavior.

If students come to view learning as a means to get a reward/incentive, they will not longer identify learning as something worth doing for the long-term (whole life). American Management still believes rewards and incentives are the way to motivate employees to do a better job. At best, rewards will get some temporary reaction, but it does not last, nor does it change behaviors for the long term and it does more harm than good. Same thing will happen in education. PLEASE DO NOT LET THIS HAPPEN!! People are not realizing that fear, incentives (you can have candy if your good or if you eat your vegetables you can have a big piece of cake) negativity, threats, rating students, ranking students are extrinsic in nature and it is these same motivators (negative) used at an early age that drove the inclination to learn out in the first place.

By most accounts (see Detroit Free Press - Failed High Schools) studies have shown there is a 30 – 35% dropout rate at the high school level.

The Alliance for Excellent Education research shows that between 80 –85% of Americans believe the number one priority in our country is high school education.WRONG!!! Here we go again not looking at the systemic nature (end-to-end) of the problem. High School is the output. 95% percent of most problems can be found in the planning, design and the first few input steps of any process. Please start to understand the cost and tampering you are continually doing to this system.By suggesting High School is where we should put the majority of money and effort is like bringing back quality control at the end of the production line.

Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation Report on Dropouts -

Systems Optimization: It’s about interdependencies, we must realize that change cannot occur in one school level without affecting the performance and outcome in all other parts of the primary educational system, the system as a whole, and ultimately all other systems by which the school system operates. More on Systems Thinking at

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