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Itís Tuesday morning September six at 8 a.m on the first day of classes for the start of a new school year for our students.

I decided to pay a visit to three London secondary schools to get the view of school drop outs from the students. The teens were congregating in the smoking areas on the sidewalk in front and back of the schools. At times I had to cut through the haze of tobacco and some sweet smelling Marijuana.

If you want the scoop on who and why students quit school it is useless to quote old reports and officialdomís opinions of Board of Education executives. The ministry/board of education staffs probably never ever failed or dropped out of school.

I have always had some sympathy for youngsters who fail or drop out of school. I have to admit that I failed grade one.

Let me introduce you to some of the teens that I interviewed. First on the scene was "Syd" ,age seventeen, who lived with his mom and was returning for his second time in grade eleven. He is a College level student who dropped out of his semester high school in November and February. The Math/Science curriculum was way too hard for him.

Most of his teachers were female which made it hard for him to relate to. He found the academic classes of seventy minutes in duration painful to endure with only five minutes in between periods. When Syd quit school he found employment in landscaping and a pizza take-out making $8.00 per hour. He figures he has a 50:50 chance of dropping out again.

"Albert" wanted to share his experiences: he was suspended from school last year for three days for skipping his classes. Seems ridiculous he told me that for skipping three of his classes in math he was rewarded/punished with three days off to watch television. When he came back he found himself more behind in his studies.

He found it virtually impossible to sit in his seat and concentrate on an irrelevant, boring curriculum four periods a day five days a week.

"Denise"age seventeen dropped out last year in the second semester when she was in grade eleven. She started to skip classes in February and the school called a couple of times. She intercepted the phone messages and mom/dad were not aware of her lack of attendance until it was too late.

She too felt that teachers didnít seem to care that she didnít come to her classes. The custodians cut off the lock on her locker and returned her text books to the office. Off she went to work in a restaurant as a waitress making minimum wages along with some tips.

I interviewed a dozen similar students who basically told me the same tales of unhappiness. There was no other recourse to their problems then throwing in the towel and simply admitting failure and quitting school.

There are practical solutions that can be implemented to secure the Thames Valley Boardís motto "Success For Every Student". The test results affirms that the semester system for Applied/College level student doesnít work Too quickly the students fail and too fast they drop out of school.

How about we follow the positive example of London Central Collegiate that offer up the two day cycle with three terms to be successful?

We could emulate our neighbors in Michigan who have abandoned the semester system to implement modular time tabling. Academic courses are assigned forty-five minutes daily and Physical Education and Technology have double periods. The schools even awards credits for good attendance in study hall.

We have had a dismal lack of success ratings for our Applied/College level students for many years. Too many of our students/your children are not completing their high school education.

Here is some free advice for parents. Grade eleven is a critical year. Most of our high school students drop out of school in grade 11 in the second semester. Male students quit twice as often to their fellow female students.

Students can actually quit school in the semester that they attain the magic number 16th birthday. Quit school in March before their birthday in June.

Youngsters who have quit school in the past will more and likely repeat and drop out yet again. Nothing has changed in their lives to make a difference. The overworked Vice Principals will dutifully fill in the school leaving form checking off the box, looking for employment The custodian cleans out the locker and the text books are returned to the office. Hard to find meaningful work with a grade ten education.

The drop out students will attest that no one waved goodbye when they quit school Itís time for change. Whatís your opinion?

Len Lesser

Len Lesser posts a report every week

You can email Len at lenlesser@hotmail.com