~ By Colette
As I began working on our September issue on “Preventing School Dropout” I realized that what I really wanted to focus on was not how to prevent youth from dropping out of school, but instead how to keep youth engaged in school until they completed successfully. For me, the difference is more than a change in semantics, but rather a total shift in how we view youth who are on the verge of prematurely leaving school.
However when I began doing literature searches to find the most recent research in this area, I discovered that using keywords such as “school completion” was not very successful. Instead, most of the research I found and read was about “school dropout,” and the articles were framed around preventing youth from dropping out (ie., stopping a negative occurrence) instead of supporting school completion (ie., facilitating a positive happening). I am happy to say, though, that there are a number of researchers who are actively working to change this perspective, Drs. Michael Woolley and Gary Bowen are two and I am delighted they were able to contribute to our issue.
My quest for changing our perspectives on this topic continued into the layout and printing process. As I tried to visualize both a title and cover image for this issue I was torn; do we focus on the “school dropout” perspective, which is the terminology that most people use and will recognize, or do we focus on the “school completion” perspective, which I think best represents the content of the issue, but which doesn’t contain the familiar buzz words and thus might not get the attention it needs. In the end, I think we found a good solution. Working with our graphic designer we created a cover image which is positive. We also created a title which reflects both the traditional and the new terminology.
Beyond advocating for changing our perspective on school dropout, I am excited about this issue for another reason: it broadens the lens beyond the school environment. While schools play a large role in teens’ lives, there are many other influences in the lives of youth and many other people (besides teachers and school administrators) who play an important role in adolescent development. Parents are one. Community leaders are another. It is the role of all adults within the community that is the focus of this issue – parents, neighbors, youth workers, policy makers, as well as adults within the school. These are the adults that the articles focus on, and this too, is reflected in the cover art and title of the issue.
My hope is that our issue – Preventing School Dropout: How All Adults Can Support School Completion – encourages all adults, including you, to support all youth in completing school.