Retention * Equity * Success
(Without the success of all these, the student loses out on a better life and the school has lost revenue.)
tudents are dropping out of college at an alarming rate! Why?
According to the U.S. Department of Education (2007) and the American Association of Community Colleges (2007), the attrition rate, or what’s more commonly known as the dropout rate, on average, for traditional colleges, universities, community college and career/technical colleges, the dropout rate is nearly 45%. In other words, nearly 1/2 the students in America are dropping out of their higher educational institutions within the first half of their studies. THAT’S SAD!
During a four-year study I conducted between 2001 – 2005 between 28 classes I taught, as well as random interviews with 1,800 students and 200 teachers at six different colleges, I learned why students dropout, why students didn’t know about the equal opportunities available, and why we haven’t had more students succeed with their education. As we all know, or should know, completing one’s education is the foundation to building a successful future, and for this to happen, all parties must be actively involved – staff, faculty, administration, peer leaders, and other student volunteers.
My four-year study began during my first semester teaching Public Speaking at a local community college when the Speech department put on a speech competition. I was told it was open to every student currently enrolled in Speech 101 who desired to try. I was further told that most, if not all teachers, told their students that if they participated and did their best, regardless of their outcome, they would receive extra credit. Well, knowing that allowing all students to participate would be a cluster you-know-what, I hand picked my two most promising students and encouraged them to enter the competition. Though they were both nervous, I assured them that I was their teacher and I would, during off-class hours, work with them. After all, isn’t that what a teacher should do – teach?
Well, both my students made it to the final round, but only one made it to the “Final Four” and he won! During our next faculty meeting I heard another teacher complaining about the competition, and she said the ‘teacher whose student won, was brought in as a ringer.’ Though I usually leave well enough alone and pick my battles, this one couldn’t be left alone since my ethics and integrity were brought in to question. So I politely introduced myself as the teacher who she recently accused or bringing in a ringer. And man, you should’ve seen her turn five shades of red. Couldn’t quite tell if it was from being embarrassed or due to the fact she was caught with her foot shoved half way down her throat. I told her he wasn’t a ringer. Rather a fulltime student and I felt he had enough raw talent that if we just worked together, he could become completely polished – which he was. And here she comes again… “Are you saying that you taught him how to do his speech so well!?! I laughed and asked if that was a trick question, because I certainly didn’t get it. But low and behold, she was serious. So I told her I stood before her as a teacher who did his job very well, and taught his student how to deliver an outstanding speech. She then informed me that I wasn’t allowed to coach my students. So I said, I’m sorry, the rule book wasn’t given to me. But if you would be so kind as to get me a copy of the rule book, next semester I promise I will know it cover to cover and not do anything against the rules.” As she asked around for a rule book, we quickly found out that there wasn’t a rule book, and no mention from the department head about not teaching your students. Hmmm…? It appears some people do not like other’s to succeed nor care about doing their job well. She must have been one of those teachers who simply doesn’t care about truly educating her students, and just goes through the motions to collect a paycheck and have her summers off.
Speaking of teachers going through the motions, let’s now move into my study. This part of the study took place over a four-year period, including summer classes between a total of 28 classes I taught. First, allow me to say that all students received, at a minimum, the basic academic requirements set-forth by the college.
Student Retention Study in the Classroom: This first study was between two different teaching styles, and studied what it takes to improve student retention, class work and tests scores. Style one: “Motivational,” based on my personal teaching philosophy and style. Style two: “GttM” (Going through the Motions), based on everything opposite of my personal philosophy and style, hence, going through the motions.
In my study, I took (subject 1) 14 classes and made learning fun, taught with passion, true caring (identifying troubled students and working with them one-on-one), motivation, inspiration, and with firm control of the class, thus gaining the students respect. With the other (subject 2) 14, I simply taught by going through the motions. The results are as follows:
Subject one: Never exceeded an 8% drop-rate. 100% improved class work. 100% pass rate on tests (mid term and final exam).
Subject two: 20% – 32% drop-rate. 80% improved class work. 80% pass rate on tests (mid term and final exam).
Based on the results of my study, I believe if a teacher has passion for what they teach, truly show they care, is motivational, inspirational, has respect of their students, and makes learning fun, more students WILL rise to the occasion and succeed. Sadly, there are far too many teachers whom, for whatever reason (available for another article), simply go through the motions when teaching and cannot reach the students, and probably do not care. The flip side is that perhaps some of these teachers do care, but do not know how to actually teach, and or reach the students.
Student Equity Study throughout Six Campuses: This study was conducted over a four-year period, 2001 – 2005, with 1800 students and 200 teachers via personal interviews at three different community college campuses, one four-year university, and two career/technical colleges. Before we delve into specifics, let’s first define the term “Equity.”
According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, the word “Equity” is defined as follows: Main Entry: eq·ui·ty Pronunciation: ek-w t- .Function: noun. Inflected Form(s): plural –ties.
1: fairness or justice in dealings between persons
2: a system of law that is a more flexible addition to ordinary common and statute law and is designed to protect rights and achieve just settlements in cases where ordinary legal settlements may be too strict
3: the value of an owner’s interest in a property in excess of claims against it (as the amount of a mortgage).
Now that we understand that the word “Equity” means “Fairness,” let’s know the meaning of the term “Student Equity” in the world of education. I’ve read the definition in a variety of ways, such as, “students from historically underrepresented groups have an equal opportunity for access, success, and transfer.” Regardless of how it’s termed, it simply means that all students are allowed the same rights and access to succeed with their education. However, not all students, regardless of race, creed, national origin, socioeconomic background, etc, receive the information well enough to have the same rights as the others. From my experience, every student has been either given (written) and or told of the availability allowed them for complete success — e.g. Tutorial Centers, Disability Department, ELS Dept., Computer Labs, Writing Labs, Library, Counselors, etc.
Most, if not all students, receive the written information at student orientation in a welcome packet, and may also receive the information needed to succeed via a lecture at the orientation. However, some students do not pay attention and or may toss out the packet of information. If this is the case, when and where else may the students learn of something they knew nothing about? When I taught college, I was required on the first day of class to inform students of all the available programs and departments to help ensure equity and success. However, I took it a step further and reminded my students at the beginning of every class meeting.
However, some students still do not listen and or care enough to pay attention until either they need the assistances or it’s too late. As an example, my youngest daughter, a sophomore at a California State University, recently having difficulty in a core class, called me to vent her frustration over not knowing the assignment well enough to do what was required. She said she spoke with all her sorority sisters, and no one there had taken the class and wasn’t able to help. She said the office hours allowed by her professor didn’t allow enough time for him to sufficiently help her. So I asked her if she’d been to the tutorial center? She had no idea what I was talking about. So I told her if she truly cared about learning the topic and assignment, she will go to the student center and ask how to find the tutorial center, and find a tutor for her assignment. She went. She found a tutor. She now understands what to do and now holds the power to allow her success with her studies. Thankfully, her Father’s an activist for student success! LOL.
I know for a fact that she was once given all the information for having access for success. She received it during orientation. I know because I was with her. She, like many young students, do not pay enough attention, or even keep a file on all the papers to refer back to when and if needed.
Now that we’ve had an overview of Student Equity and its meaning, let’s take a look at my study: During my random interview of students (1,800) and teachers (200), I asked the same question of all my participants.
- Have you heard of the term Student Equity? 1,758 students said yes. The 42 who couldn’t answer, I schooled them. All 200 teachers said they had heard of the term.
- Define “Student Equity and give an example.” Though all 1,800 students gave some variation of the correct definition, very few could give an example. Whereas the 200 teachers basically answered the same as the students, the majority actually were able to cite examples. Kudos for the teachers!
- STUDENTS: Does your school offer access to a Tutorial Center, Disability Department, Computer Labs, Writing Labs, Library, Counselors, etc? 1,785 students responded with some variation of “I’m sure they do. Probably. I guess so. I would hope they would. And the likes thereof. The remaining 15 students knew exactly where to go and have either used these services or know of someone who has. So, I asked the 15 students that if they were asked to be an “Ambasador to the School” for the purpose of helping other students know more about equitable programs on campus so they have an equal chance to succeed, all 15 said they would. As a matter of fact, they would be honored.
- TEACHERS: How is the information disseminated among the students to know how to locate the offerings that will aid them in succeeding with their education? All teachers assumed the student received the information in some sort of Welcome to School packet and felt it was up to the student you read the information and what to do should they need the services. Not one of the 200 teachers were willing to go above and beyond and identify troubled students and offer advice past a suggestion for going to see a guidance counselor. I asked that if it were made mandatory to identify troubled students in their class, would they now go above and beyond. They all agreed that if it were in their job description and ‘HAD” to do it, they would. I further asked about working one-on-one away from office hours, so long as it didn’t conflict with other classes, would they be willing to do so? Again, if it were written into their new contract and “HAD” to do it, they would make the time.
Why Do Students Dropout? Through my years of teaching and as a motivational speaker, specializing in student success, I have found only a few key factors that contribute to a student dropping out. One being, the student feels lost and confused, mainly due to not understanding the work, and feeling that there’s no one who truly cares to offer the help – even the teachers. Yes, I know these students are adults, but they’re here for a reason. They’re here for an education, and because mommy and daddy are no longer holding their hand, they feel all alone. Well, as educators, it’s our job to identify these students and offer them the personal assistance, and or, help them find where they need to go for the additional help. After all, we’re here for them. If we didn’t have students, we wouldn’t have jobs. But in reality, we will always have students, but there’s no reason we cannot increase the student body, and give them all the tools necessary tools to be successful.
Secondly, many students find that being on their own is a very daunting task, and quite often with bills they’re not prepared to paid, and therefore, drop a class, and then maybe two, and then possibly a third or more so they may work more hours and or find a second job just to pay the bills. Perhaps, the fact that we allow credit card companies on campus to solicit students with the grand idea of having their very own credit card without mommy and daddy looking over their shoulders, and being told that it’s time to grow up and start building their own credit is part of the problem? So what happens when the student cannot pay the bill? They end up either with poor credit or dropping out of school to work more just to pay down the credit card(s) that they initially found on our campus. Are we actually doing them a service or disservice?
Thirdly, we have students who are either single parents, or married with an unsupportive spouse. This is a tough one since we cannot become involved in their domestic problems. However, the single parent-student and the married student are usually more mature and actually are more focused on their studies and are willing to weather any possible storm and complete their education. However, some will have problems that may hinder their education. What do we do without breeching any code of ethics? Easy, remind them that we’re here to help with their studies, and we can always refer them to our counselors.
Lastly, we have the students who are here because until the age of 23, they receive a Social Security benefit due to a deceased parent. So they attend without any direction. They just want the money. However, these students are like finding a raw diamond – they can be polished. Though they say they’re here for the money, the can be easily convinced and will grasp the fact that between the age of 18 and 23, that they will have five-years verses the traditional four-years to complete a bachelor’s degree. They can spend thee-years at the community college working on their GE, and then transfer to the university for the final two, or vice versa. Bottom line, for these students to continue receiving their benefits, they need to do well in school, and it’s easy to guide them properly and give them the direction they truly desire.
Now That We’ve Learned About Retention, Equity, and Dropouts, Let’s Examine the Results of the Survey: This four-year survey taught me a few important things: 1. Teachers, overall, do not really care. Don’t get me wrong, many do. 2. Students care, but not enough to take the extra time to find what they need to truly succeed. 3. Schools are in serious need of help in the arena of student success. 4. Remember what I wrote on page #1 about the dropout rate being at an alarming high? Well it is! 5. This can all be fixed. Keep in mind that there will never be 100% conformity, but we can certainly increase the number of students retained and become far more successful.
Without meeting with, or at least speaking with the right person at every college in America, I cannot say for sure, but I would go so far as to say that I would imagine that most, if not all colleges have a team and several departments to ensure Student Equity.
But for argument sake, let’s say every college; community, university, and career/technical, all have a Student Equity program in place that could seriously benefit the success of their students. But how do we get this information to each and every student? How do we get them to remember what’s available to assist in their success?
Well, it’s not nearly as difficult as it may seem. First of all, we need to make sure we have the departments and teams in place. Secondly, we need to ensure that all employees – staff, faculty, administrators, counselors, student leaders, and volunteer student ambassetors take this very seriously and are trained on how to properly approach students and continuously inform that these programs exist and how to find and utilize them. Without direction, how can you expect anyone to get to their final destination? In our case, the destination is the successful completion of the students’ education!
Moreover, student retention, student equity, and the students overall success is serious business, but easy to manage and handle for those who have such a passion for this field. I have this passion, and that’s why I have been so successful in the world student success.
As a motivational speaker specializing in student success, mainly with community and career/technical colleges, I can take an auditorium full of students, and let’s say 300 have thoughts of possibly dropping out for whatever reason. After my one hour interactive speech, I guarantee more than half of the 300 will now be motivated and inspired to stay in school and complete their education, thus building the foundation for a successful life.
To succeed with a student retention & equity program, and or with my motivational speaking program, the schools, whether public, private or proprietary, will always benefit. And that’s because all colleges are a business. And by succeeding you will increase enrollment and retention, and therefore increase your school’s revenue.
If I may be of further assistance, feel free to contact me through my online press kit at www.GlennBrandonBurke.com.
By: Glenn Brandon Burke, M.Ed.
Motivational Speaker / Author / Master Educator