Misunderstood Minds, Disappearing Faces: Addressing the Drop-Out Epidemic by Focusing on Learning by Mary-Dean Barringer, CEO, All Kinds of Minds

In schools across the United States, students are lining up for the annual ritual of having their school portraits made. Despite the new technology used by the photographers –and the constantly changing fashions and hairstyles that class photos reflect–the tradition of memorializing each school year in photos has not changed over time. Elementary school students will be bringing home their class composites; older students will put together the first layouts of school yearbooks.

Sadly, too many faces disappear from these composites and yearbooks from year to year. On average, one out of every three students posing for his or her ninth grade photo right now will be missing from the school yearbooks that will be published in spring 2013.

If that seems too abstract, consider that according to America’s Promise Alliance, 1.3 million students in the U.S. drop out of high school each year. That’s 7,200 per day – or an average of one every 26 seconds.

A great deal of talk – and resources – are being directed toward solving this massive problem. But an understanding of how students learn is missing from most discussions about helping those students at risk of not graduating. Studies show that students with poor academic performance have the strongest risk of dropping out, and a disproportionate percentage of these students have learning difficulties.

To be sure – the causes underlying our nation’s drop-out problem are numerous and complex. There is no silver-bullet fix. Yet, research and anecdotal feedback from All Kinds of Minds alumni clearly suggest that the science of learning needs to be part of a comprehensive drop-out prevention strategy. Studies prove that increasing educator understanding of and ability to effectively address learning variation helps improve student attitudes about school, self-confidence in abilities, engagement in learning, and behavior in class – all outcomes that are linked to academic success and high school graduation.

Shelly Gregg, founder and director of the Outer Banks Learning Center in North Carolina, can attest to this. A graduate of and trained facilitator for All Kinds of Minds’ Schools Attuned program, Shelly left the classroom a few years ago to open a private tutoring center. Inspired by All Kinds of Minds’ philosophy that all students can learn and that no child should struggle or face humiliation because of the way she or he learns, the Center works in partnership with the Dare County schools to make sure struggling students don’t fall through the cracks.

The Center’s REBOUND program takes in students suspended from the local high schools. Participating students get academic coaching, take part in community service, and receive personalized counseling that helps identify learning needs and interventions that may benefit the student. Students are able to avoid falling behind (or further behind) academically during their suspensions, and for some, the individual attention they receive during REBOUND helps identify and target barriers to academic success that have never been addressed at their regular schools.

“Through the REBOUND program, we have been able to tangibly support students who would not otherwise finish school and have made graduation and future educational success possible,” Shelly asserts. Shelly and her center’s efforts are adding new portraits of success for many of the most vulnerable students in Dare County, and can serve as inspiration for others trying to ensure that every young person’s last grade school photograph includes a cap and gown.

One thought on “Misunderstood Minds, Disappearing Faces: Addressing the Drop-Out Epidemic by Focusing on Learning by Mary-Dean Barringer, CEO, All Kinds of Minds

  1. The insights and wisdom of All Kinds of Minds was something I began to gain access to through Dr. Mel Levine’s books back in 1996. My son was struggling in school, and I was struggling myself, having returned to college after having “dropped out” back some thirty years prior, in the mid-nineteen sixties. While researching learning disabilities in one of my courses, I came across Dr. Levine’s books on learning variations and realized I’d struck gold, both in terms of understanding my son’s learning challenges and my own. The insights I gained, through those readings and later training and becoming and All Kinds of Minds facilitator, not only helped me get through college, and helped my son get through Paramedic school, those insights helped me give others young students I worked with new confidence in themselves and skills in learning. I want to add, that this spring, now at age sixty five, I will be graduating from Fordham University’s Graduate School of Social Service! I will not only be completing a life long dream of becoming a social worker, I will be the first woman in my family to complete graduate school! (And yes, it is never, ever too late for an old dog to learn new tricks!) The All Kinds of Minds strengths perspective philosophy underscores a basic tenet in social work and life, that we all have strengths, and that it is through expanding on those strengths we find the courage to learn and grow and give.

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