Why Teachers are Blamed for Low Graduation Rates in High School

Are teachers really being blamed for low graduation rates in high school? I am a teacher myself and from what I’ve seen most of the teachers blame the parents. On the other hand parents blame the teachers.

Teachers are blamed for low graduation rates for the same reasons barbers are blamed for bad haircuts. Just as we expect barbers to know how to cut hair, we also expect teachers to know how to educate our children.

As well as being a teacher I am also a parent and I have to admit at times I have blamed teachers for my son’s lack of achievement in school. Perhaps, I did not want to admit to my own inadequacies as a parent.  It is also possible that my son had the misfortune of having unskilled educators.

Realistically my son’s lack of achievement can probably be attributed in part to my parenting skills and the teacher’s lack of knowledge. But shall we also consider my son in this equation. He is not the most motivated learner and no matter how hard I try or his teachers try, he is also responsible for his learning.

When we look for blame for low graduation rates we need to consider three sources. First we must take a look at the parents. I live in a housing development and all around me I see teenagers dropping out of school. What’s interesting about this trend is that the parents of these kids have also dropped out of school. The way I see is that if the parents do not value education then their children will not value education. This is not true in all cases, but parental influence on a student’s decision to drop out of school is very strong.

There is always the exception. I recently graduated from the University with my Masters in Education. I also live in this housing project and I am also considered to be at the poverty level of income. So what’s different about my family as compared to some of my neighbors? To begin, I value education. I also encourage my children to obtain an education. I explain the importance of being educated and how important it is for their survival in the real world. Most importantly, dropping out of school is not an option for my children. They would never consider it because they know I will not approve of it.

Now let’s take a look at the teacher in this little blame game. I don’t have a lot of experience teaching but I have experienced poor teaching skills first hand. When I was completing my student teaching, I was placed in a high school history class. I had one student that could not read or write. He was in the tenth grade! Basically, when I took time to help this student, I was informed by my mentor to give him a “D” and move on. I was not to take the time to teach this student reading and writing skills that his previous teachers had failed to do. Needless to say I was appalled. But what was I to do? I was in no position to defy my mentoring teacher.

On the other hand, I have also witnessed the pressures that teachers endure on a daily basis. Because of “No Child Left Behind,” teachers have been forced to teach to the test. There is so much emphasis being placed on achievement scores that teachers can no longer teach for the joy of teaching. With so much accountability being placed on their shoulders, it would be difficult to ensure that every student graduates high school. But we also have to consider the fact that underachieving students are the ones that usually drop out. If they are no longer in the system, then what does this do to a school’s achievement scores?

Now we come to the individual students themselves. Parents and teachers have a lot of influence, but do they have enough influence to stop a student from dropping out? I will have to say no. If a student is determined to quit school, they will find a way. If their parents refuse to let them drop out, then they will probably start ditching school. They may even resort to failing all of their classes. A teacher has only so much influence because they cannot become too involved in a student’s life. As a result, parents and teachers may be left with no other option than allowing the student to drop out.

I think it is difficult to determine exactly who is at fault when it comes to low graduation rates of high school students. But I am pretty sure that teachers cannot be blamed entirely for the low graduation rates. Perhaps parents, teachers and students should all be held accountable. I will leave it up to you to decide who is really to blame.