School Dropouts

This country has a serious dropout problem.

I share with you a little of what I shared in my keynote at the International Association for Truancy and Dropout Prevention Conference.

Every September about 3.5 million young people enter the 8th grade. After four years, about 505,000 drop out. That's an average of about 2,800 per day. Picture this: Every school day more than 70 school buses drive away from schools filled with students who will never return.

Not returning to school is not an event; it is a process.

Show me a school dropout, and I'll show you a young person who has not established positive relationships at school.

Many dropouts start negative self-talk early in their school careers. I submit that this negative approach has many causes—among which are (1) using competition (rather than collaboration) and (2) emphasizing what is wrong (rather than first pointing out positives and, thereby, fostering encouragement). Additional counterproductive approaches can be seen from the last link at

The desire to belong is so strong in young humans that without some positive relationship, it becomes the overriding reason for truancy and school dropouts.

Here is a simple strategy that teachers and parents can implement to build relationships: INTERVIEW.

In the classroom, this means setting some time aside for the teacher to interview students and for students to interview each other. At home, this means setting aside time for parents to interview their children.

We know that cognition cannot be separated from emotions. The simple approach of learning about someone else prompts positive feelings—on the part of both parties.

A teacher can interview a student during the five-minute activity once a week—while students are interviewing each other.

A parent can plan five minutes a week to sit with or walk with a young person to listen, not to grill but just to listen—without comment, without judgment, or criticism. That's what effective interviewers do. They ask interesting questions. For example asking, "What was one thing that you liked or was good about school this week?" will give a parent insight into the child's world and even prompt good feelings about school.

Amazing relationships will result.