Teachers will be well-familiar with the following scenario: you have a class that is made up of a range of abilities, from the very bright to the struggling, but their common trait is that almost all of them want to succeed in the course. But then there is the proverbial Johnny, bored by every strategy you try, both jealous and resentful of his classmates, who does everything in his power to disrupt learning, ranging from verbal outbursts to loud flatulence to inappropriate jokes to mockery of both you and the other students. He is part of an in-school student retention program whose instructors often are much more tolerant of aberrant behaviour than you will ever be. Then one day you get the magical note in your mailbox: Johnny has withdrawn from school!
As a teacher, I was always deeply ambivalent about student dropouts. On the one hand it was sad to see the loss (at least temporarily) of potential in those going out the door, but on the other hand, it was often a relief, inasmuch as that person was no longer going to be a disruptive influence in the class.
I feel no such ambivalence about a program that is having remarkable success not only in preventing dropouts but in helping to ensure post-secondary educational opportunities as well. It is called Pathways to Success. It is a program that, after 6 years of operation, has achieved astounding success in the troubled Toronto area known as Regent Park. Dropout rates have been reduced from 56% to 10%, and the number of students going on to post secondary education has risen from 20% to almost 80%, statistics that are amazing by anyone’s standards.
What is the key to the program’s success? Essentially, all Grade 9 students and their families where Pathways operates are offered an opportunity to sign on with the program, which offers a myriad of potential benefits:
- access to tutoring 4 nights per week
- participation in group mentoring
- access to career and individual mentoring in senior years
- bus fare to attend school
- access to youth workers for both students and their families
- financial help for special opportunities
- a university or college scholarship worth $1000 for each school year students participate in the program
As a retired teacher, what I find so exciting about a program like this is not only its success rate but also the fact that it involves a real commitment on the part of both the student and her/his family. So many times in the past, I felt public education was engaging in futile efforts to help those who did not want to be helped. Here exists an opportunity for motivated young people to surmount social and economic barriers and compete on a much better footing with those who have had many more advantages in life.
If interested in more information about the program, visit http://pathwaystoeducation.ca/
I would also be very interested in hearing from readers about other programs that are trying to achieve similar objectives.