Yesterday driving back to Oklahoma from a short stay in Kansas with my parents, I listened to a podcast recording of Dr. Margaret Beale Spencer’s lecture from February 23rd at the University of Virginia. The title of her lecture was, “The 1954 Brown Decision and Contemporary Education Challenges and Opportunities.” The U.Va. podcast channel is one of my favorites, as they always have a variety of intellectually challenging speakers from whom I enjoy learning, especially when I’m driving long distances in the car.

U.Va. Podcast & Webcast - Dr. Margaret Beale Spencer

My main technical suggestion after listening to this podcast was that I wished it included podcast shownotes! I’d love to be able to readily link to and reference the research reports, authors, and other ideas Dr. Beale discussed in her lecture. Unfortunately UVA Podcasts do not currently include linked shownotes.

Dr. Beale’s observations struck home with me as I anticipate attending the jointly sponsored “Dropout Summit” this Wednesday in Oklahoma City, hosted by the Oklahoma State Department of Education, America’s Promise Alliance, and other partners. Perceptions of identity and strong, positive relationships with teachers as well as other adults are critical variables for student success inside and outside of the classroom. Dr. Beale encourages educators and others to look beyond the basic statistics and characteristics of socio-economic status and race when analyzing student resiliency to school dropout pressures, and look at protective factors which can strengthen positive student identity perceptions. The basic message “white is good, black is bad” is a common perception which plays into student identity and self-esteem. Dr. Beale encourages everyone to NOT accept the fallacy today that “race does not matter.” One of the most important elements in this discussion is the idea that our conceptions of race are socially constructed, so they can therefore be socially adjusted. (They are not set in stone by heredity or environment.) I’m thinking there are many ways we could help students as well as educators tangibly address these issues via our Celebrate Oklahoma Voices oral history and digital storytelling project. My wheels are spinning.

I am far from an expert on these issues, but I think they are very relevant to consider as we try to find effective ways to address educational challenges including dropout rates. Refer to the “High School Dropout Prevention” page of America’s Promise Alliance for more information related to this issue, including the 16 page April 2008 “Cities in Crisis report” (PDF) from the Alliance. I’m going to read the report in advance of Wednesday’s summit.

The causes of civil rights and equal opportunities for all people– educational and otherwise, regardless of background or history, are very important issues for me. I’ve written about these issues a bit in the past in the posts “Digital Witness to President Obama’s Inauguration” (Jan 2009), “Philip Randolph, civil rights, unions, and political change” (Dec 2008,) “Reflections on Dr. King’s Dream” (Jan 2008,) and “We can’t mandate what matters” (May 2007.) Of course people do not have equal opportunities for all things, because our world is inherently an unequal and unjust environment. If we are to make this world into a more humane and just environment, it’s up to us to make needed changes at local levels. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to attend this week’s summit and not only learn more about these issues, but also identify ways I can join others to continue in this struggle which continues to our present day.

African American Civil Rights Leaders

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One Response to Considering how race still matters in America for dropouts and student identity

  1. Wesley Fryer says:

    How are dropout numbers in Oklahoma calculated?



    A: The high school dropout rate is calculated according to criteria set by the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) for Common Core Data [OAC 210:10-13-20 (iii)] and reflects the number of students in Grades 9-12 and under the age of 19 who dropped out of school during the most recent federal fiscal year – October 1 through September 30. The State Department of Education collects and reports dropout information from public schools and publically accredited private schools on students in Grades 7-12 but is required to report to the federal government a high school dropout rate.

    A: State law (70 O.S.§ 35E) defines a dropout as “any student who is under the age of 19 and has not graduated from high school and is not attending any public or private school or is otherwise receiving an education persuant to law for the full term the schools of the school district in which he/she resides are in session.”

    NCES further defines a dropout as an individual who: 1) was enrolled in school at some time during the previous school year; and 2) was not enrolled at the beginning of the current school year; and 3) has not graduated from high school or completed a state- or district-approved educational program; and 4) does not meet any of the following exclusionary conditions: a) transfer to another public school district, private school, or state- or district-approved educational program (including correctional or health facility programs); b) temporary absence due to suspension or school-excused illness; or c) death.

    A: Per law (70 O.S. § 35E), each accredited Oklahoma school with students in any of the Grades 7 through 12 must report dropouts to the SDE on a quarterly basis for each month of the school term. The schedule for reporting student dropouts is October 1 of one school year through September 30 of the following school year. The four quarterly reporting periods are the three-month periods ending December 31, March 31, June 30, and September 30.

    A: The Oklahoma reported graduation rate and dropout rate are related, but are not the same thing. The state reported high school dropout rate reflects the percentage of students in Grades 9-12 under the age of 19 who drop out of school during the time span of one year. The rate provides a snapshot of students who drop out within a one year period. It is an annual collection. Graduation rate is a four-year data collection and reflects the percentage of a cohort of students (i.e. the Class of 2008) that does not graduate. The graduation rate provides a view of students over their 4 year high school timeline and those who graduate.

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