Friday, March 14, 2008

Go Ahead! Drop Out!

Go on! Go!

That's the advice coming from Michael Goldstein, founder of the MATCH Charter Public High School in Boston, to students lacking an interest in their formal education.

His hypothesis, as outlined in a recent e-mail to Washington Post education columnist Jay Matthews is as follows:

"I've got a nutty idea. When half the kids in most U.S. cities essentially reject the basic product called 'school' -- many would leave a lot EARLIER if they were allowed by parents and the law -- then the best path forward is not ONLY different schools (with caring, discipline, and rigor), but also offering a different product entirely.

"Here's the different 'product': What if a 16-year-old could drop out but bank the money that the school district spends per pupil ($15,000 here in Boston, but I'm sure it's more in D.C.), the amount that otherwise would have been spent junior and senior year, like a medical savings account or an IRA? Then it can't be touched for at least two years -- force-feed kids the feeling of the dead-end life they're embarking on.

By Goldstein's estimation, most of the kids who might drop out under his scenario would enjoy their newfound freedom...temporarily, then realize that being in the real world with no job, no marketable skills or a formal education isn't such a good idea. Meanwhile, the campaign to get them back in school would continue:
"The dropout would get a statement every quarter in the mail, like a mutual fund, which shows the $30,000 (plus interest) or whatever available for their education. In each statement, there would be an easy-to-read story about an inner-city kid who'd used the education funds to turn things around. Constant reminder.
Schools could bank savings by hiring fewer teachers. Teachers would "like their jobs more" according to Goldstein, not having the added social work duties that sometimes come with potential dropouts.

It's a pretty dire view, but is there a degree of truth to what Goldstein's saying? You can read the entire exchange in Matthew's column here. Check out this great post about it on The Core Knowledge Blog.

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