Students Do Not Leave Schools, They Leave People

by | Jan 15, 2016 | Dropout Prevention, School Climate

Like many of you, I review articles and resources from a variety of sources addressing human behavior.  When I read the article “9 Things That Make a Good Employee Quit I was reminded how much they align with the reasons many students leave school.

The report’s author, Dr. Travis Bradberry says, “Managers tend to blame their turnover problems on everything under the sun, while ignoring the crux of the matter: people don’t leave jobs; they leave managers.”

“The sad thing is that this can easily be avoided. All that’s required is a new perspective and some extra effort on the manager’s part,” writes Bradberry. “First, we need to understand the nine worst things that managers do that send good people packing.”

Here are the nine things:

  1. They overwork people
  2. They don’t recognize people and reward good work
  3. They don’t care about their employees
  4. They don’t honor their commitments
  5. They hire and promote the wrong people
  6. They don’t let people pursue their passion
  7. They fail to develop people’s skills
  8. They fail to engage their creativity
  9. They fail to challenge people intellectually

The author concludes with the following: “If you want your best people to stay, you need to think carefully about how you treat them. While good employees are as tough as nails, their talent gives them an abundance of options. You need to make them want to work for you.”

I see an alignment of all nine reasons good employees quit with why students dropout.  Consider the following seven reasons students may leave school based on the previous nine things that make an employee quit.

  1. Their contributions go unnoticed: Many students feel they do contribute in positive ways to the classroom, school and social environment but that they go unrecognized because they are often outside of the current assessment parameters.
  2. They feel others do not care for them and about them: Students seek for others to care for them and about them but far too many express a sense that this is lacking in their school.
  3. Commitments to them are not honored: Students hear that others will encourage, support and assist them but find this is not always the case, leading to disappointment and a sense of less importance.
  4. They are not allowed to pursue their passions: As humans we feel a passion for one or many things, items and/or issues and unfortunately students find a disconnect between their passions and school relevance.
  5. Their skills are not recognized and developed: Students come to school with a set of skills and expect opportunities to enhance them as well as acquire additional skills, but find too often that a focus on content knowledge diminishes their skill building opportunities.
  6. Their creativity is not encouraged or engaged: Students have unique ways of being creative which does not always align with the school’s environment and strategies; thus they feel a lack of focus on their creativity and its orientation to assisting them to academically development.
  7. They fail to be appropriately challenged: Students are challenged daily but often fail to be challenged in appropriate ways to increase their attributes.

Each of these seven things that students experience that drive them to consider leaving school is built on relationships and is avoidable. We can compare these seven to the nine things that make a good employee quit leading us to consider that students do not leave schools they leave people.

This is a significant shift in dropout prevention frameworks focused on how schools are organized and deliver services to students.  The National Dropout Prevention Center (NDPC) advocates for 15 effective dropout prevention strategies schools can employ to reduce the dropout rate.  These strategies are organized into four general categories:

  1. School and Community Perspective
  2. Early Intervention
  3. Basic Core Strategies
  4. Making the Most of Instruction

NDPC acknowledges, “These strategies appear to be independent, but actually work well together and frequently overlap. The greatest results will be had when school districts develop a program improvement plan that encompasses most or all of these strategies.”  I believe we need to weave the relationships students engage in at school into each of the NDPC strategies to ensure each student trusts others and is trusted in return.

If we want the best for each student we need to consider the seven things listed above and create both the conditions and relationships that motivate students to do their best and feel connected and a sense of belonging to the school and with others.  Then students will stay in school because they have positive relationships that matter to them.

Terry Pickeral
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Terry Pickeral

Terry Pickeral, has extensive experience in policy development, advocacy, education reform, youth leadership, teaching and learning strategies, education collaborations, evaluation and civic development. His commitment is to ensuring schools create and sustain quality teaching and learning environments for all students to be successful in school and contribute to their communities as active principled citizens.
Terry Pickeral
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