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l Student Engagement and Disengagement in Urban High Schools We can require adolescents to attend school, but learning requires conscious and purposeful effort, which cannot be legislated. This volume is about motivating adolescents to be engaged cognitively, behaviorally, and emotionally in their coursework and in the broader array of school-based activities. Motivation Is essential to learning at all ages (Finn and Rock, 1997; lessor, Turbin, and Costa, 1998; National Research Council, 2000), but it becomes pivotal during adolescence as youth approach the threshold to adulthood. Younger children who become mentally and emotionally disengaged generally are compliant enough to attend school, or they do not have the means to avoid it. But adolescents who are bored, distracted, emotionally troubled, or do not see the value of schooling have the means to drop out of school altogether. Even if they do not drop out of school, adolescents have many alterna- tive activities to occupy their time and attention, including working for pay, sports, video games, social activities, and for some, less socially sanctioned activities. A national survey of more than 2,000 youth in grades 7 through 12 found that about 40 percent of the students worked a median of 3 hours on an average school day, and spent 2 hours "hanging out with friends." The median number of hours worked by Black students was 4 hours. The average adolescent watches nearly 3 hours of television a day, and adoles- cents of color watch more on average (The Kaiser Family Foundation, 1999~. Schools, therefore, have considerable competition for the attention of their clients. It is not surprising that homework does not necessarily have 13
4 ENGAGING SCHOOLS a high priority, despite its apparent contribution to learning (Cooper, Lind- say, Nye, and Greathouse, 1998). Research on motivation and engagement is essential to understanding some of the most fundamental and vexing challenges of school reform. Improving meaningful learning depends on the ability of educators to en- gage the imaginations of students to involve them in new realms of knowI- edge, building on what they already know and believe, what they care about now, and what they hope for in the future (National Research Coun- cil, 20001. At the very least, increasing students' academic achievement requires improvements in attendance, attention, and completion of school- work. Increasing motivation and engagement is unlikely to be accomplished by simple policy prescriptions, such as raising standards, promoting ac- countability, or increasing school funding although these may be helpful in the right set of circumstances. The fundamental challenge is to create a set of circumstances in which students take pleasure in learning and come to believe that the information and skills they are being asked to learn are important or meaningful for them and worth their effort, and that they can reasonably expect to be able to learn the material. As this volume makes clear, there are no silver bullets. Some students are motivated even under adverse circumstances, but for many students their engagement and motivation to learn depend on a confluence of sup- ports, none of which is sufficient on its own. These supports include · a challenging but individualized curriculum that is focused on un- derstanding; · knowledgeable, skilled, and caring teachers; · a school culture that is centered on learning; · a school community that engenders a sense of support and belong- ing, with opportunities to interact with academically engaged peers; · strong ties linking the school with students' families and commu- . . nltles; · an organizational structure and services that address students' non- academic needs; and · opportunities to learn the value of schoolwork for future educa- tional and career prospects. Motivation to be actively engaged is essential to learning, whether students are in schools that are located in urban, suburban, or rural com- munities. The focus of this volume, however, is on what urban high schools can do to more effectively engage students especially low-income students and students of color who are disproportionately concentrated in these schools. Although the core principles involved in making schools more
STUDENT ENGA GEMENT AND DISENGA GEMENT 15 engaging apply to all schools, we chose to focus on high-poverty urban high schools because students there are more likely than others to become clisaf- fecteci and drop out, and the social and economic consequences of clisen- gagement for them are severe. A great clear is known about the needs of adolescents and about the conclitions that motivate them to learn and stay in school. We know how to clo a better job of engaging high school students in learning activities that will help them achieve the kinds of postseconciary educational and career opportunities they desire. We also know of urban schools serving low- income students and students of color that have substantially clecreaseci dropout rates, increased attendance, and improved achievement and the educational and career prospects of their graduates. We have seen youth consiclereci at risk of school failure fighting to be heard in an English class discussion on Shakespeare and insisting on finish- ing a science experiment long after the bell has rung students who experi- ence the joy of learning and take great pricle in their accomplishments. Although far too rare, such success stories undermine the credibility of . . pessimists anc naysayers. We focus on what schools can clo, recognizing that many of the reasons for a young person's disengagement from school lie far beyond school. We are also mindful of the difficulty of increasing adolescents' motivation and engagement in schoolwork in urban neighborhoods where joblessness and poverty are endemic, violence and homelessness are common, and access to resources and opportunities are scarce. The effects of poverty on child and adolescent outcomes, regardless of the schools they attend, have been well clocumenteci (see, for example, Duncan and Brooks-Gunn, 19971. Urban schools, however, clo not usually take advantage of the resources their communities offer. Paradoxically, although many of the most troubled neighborhoods are located in metropolitan centers of great wealth and resources, access to the alluring educational and career resources of the city has been all but blocked for most students in high-poverty, urban high schools. Poverty conclitions affect chilciren's opportunities to learn in elemen- tary and micicile school as well, and many urban high schools are challenged by a large proportion of students who have very poor skills, have experi- enceci failure for many years in school, and as a result have become seri- ously alienated from academic work. It is not easy to promote enthusiasm in students who enter with low motivation and have a long way to go to master a high school curriculum. The obstacles created by poverty and the legacy of racism are profound and need to be aciciresseci in any truly comprehensive approach to improv- ing urban adolescents' engagement and motivation to learn. As a society, we should not tolerate the ways in which chilciren's opportunities are lim-
16 ENGAGING SCHOOLS ited by the circumstances of their birth, and as we work to improve schools, we must also work for better conditions in our communities and a fairer and more equitable society. Despite limitations in what can be accomplished in high schools alone, we believe we have a responsibility to use what we know to better engage adolescents in learning and prepare them for future opportunities and the adult roles and responsibilities they are about to assume. With sufficient societal will and the knowledge that now exists, we can make a measurable difference. HIGH STANDARDS AND DEMOCRATIC VALUES Nearly half a century ago, educational philosopher John Dewey and others claimed that if schools were to succeed in preparing the great major- ity of young people, not just a select few, to be responsible and productive citizens, they would have to do a much better job of motivating and engag- ing the broad spectrum of students in learning (Cremin, 1961; Dewey, 1956; Hall, 19691. The history of high schools in the United States never- theless shows alternating emphases on academic rigor associated with the need to prepare some students for college, and the democratizing function of schools having schools address the needs and engage the interests of all students, including those who traditionally have not been college bound (Powell, Farrar, and Cohen, 19851. In the past half-century, the emphasis on academic standards of the 1950s gave way to a concern for equity in the 1960s, and then back to high standards and basic academic skills in the early and mid-1980s. Since then, there has been some wavering, but the dominant policy emphasis that has emerged at the start of the 21st century has been to hold all students accountable for achieving high educational standards (National Research Council, 2002a; U.S. Department of Education, 2002), focusing especially on reading and math. For this to occur, a much broader range of students must become engaged in learning the kinds of curricula that, until recently, only students bound for 4-year colleges were expected to master. Some education analysts have expressed concern that raising standards for students who are performing poorly will increase their alienation or disengagement from school rather than motivate them to exert more effort (e.g., Futrell and Rotberg, 2002; Sheldon and Biddle, 1998), or that the concentration on English and math only will impoverish the curriculum. If imposing higher standards is the only intervention, these are likely out- comes. But the research discussed in Chapters 2 and 4 of this volume indicates that under the right circumstances, challenging students to learn more demanding curricula increases their motivation and engagement. Unfortunately, few high schools to date have provided the context or
STUDENT ENGA GEMENT AND DISENGA GEMENT 17 supports that enable most students to achieve high standards. Significant reforms will be needed to motivate all students to be sufficiently engaged in their schoolwork to meet more demanding expectations.] IMPORTANCE OF SOCIAL RELATIONSHIPS Although learning involves cognitive processes that take place within and between the individuals, motivation to learn depends on a student's involvement in a web of social relationships. The likelihood that students will be motivated and engaged in learning is increased to the extent that their teachers, family, and friends, as well as others who shape the instruc- tional process, effectively support their purposeful involvement in learning (Cohen and Ball, 19991. Thus the focus on motivation and engagement calls attention to the interface between the learner and the social context in which learning takes place. The notion that the personal value of our lives is determined largely by the social relations that take place in the communities to which we belong reflects a classic Aristotelian perspective on human nature (Lee, Bryk, and Smith, 1993; see also MacIntyre, 1981; Newmann and Oliver, 19671. It is also a perspective that is very much consistent with the views of John Dewey. For Dewey, building an engaging school community is not just a strategy to improve academic outcomes; it is essential to education itself (see Lee et al., 1993, p. 2261. It is not coincidental that many of the qualities associated with engag- ing schools also have been found to foster healthy youth development (Eccles et al., 1993; Institute of Medicine, 1997; McNeely, Nonnemaker, and Blum, 2002; National Research Council, 2002a; Rosenfeld, Richman, and Bowen, 2000) and to confer resilience to individuals who otherwise might be at risk for adverse psychological and social outcomes (Berand, 1992; Connell, Spencer, and Aber, 1994; Finn and Rock, 1997; lessor et al., 1998; Rutter, 19851. High schools, like other programs for youth, promote positive development in adolescents by addressing their needs for safety, love and belonging, respect, power, and accomplishment. They do this by establishing caring relationships with adults, maintaining positive 1'' High standards" is not defined in this volume as being able to pass a high-stakes test, such as an exam required for a high school diploma, although that might be one indicator of the standards of achievement that students are achieving. By "high standards" we mean that high school graduates should have mastered the skills they need to succeed in a postsecondary academic education program. Expectations for students on the path to meeting this ultimate standard need to be individualized, so that all students are challenged by their instructional program.
18 ENGAGING SCHOOLS and high expectations, and providing students with opportunities to par- ticipate and contribute (Berand, 1992, 19971. THE STATUS QUO Unfortunately, various studies have found that high schools are failing to engage their students, thereby providing them with neither the kind of social environment that fosters healthy psychosocial development (McNeely et al., 2002; National Research Council and Institute of Medicine, 2002) nor one that is conducive to learning (Finn and Rock, 1997; lessor et al., 1998; National Research Council, 20001. In 1974, Uric Bronfenbrenner described high schools as potent breed- 1ng grounds ot alienation, and recent studies provide some empirical sup- port for this proposition. Some studies have found that 40 to 60 percent of high school students are chronically disengaged; they are inattentive, exert little effort, do not complete tasks, and claim to be bored. This figure does not include those who already have dropped out (Marks, 2000; Sediak, Wheeler, Pullin, and Cusick, 1986; Steinberg, Brown, and Dornbush, 19961. Low motivation is not unique to urban schools. In a 3-year study of students from nine high schools, Steinberg et al. (1996) found that fewer than half of the students reported taking school or their studies seriously; this was equally true of students in affluent suburban schools and those in poor urban communities. Half of the students they surveyed considered their classes to be boring. A national study of a representative sample of high school seniors found that only 27 percent indicated that "knowing a lot about intellectual matters" was of great importance for having "high status" at their school (National Center for Education Statistics, 2001b, p. 1411. When students do exert effort, it is primarily to earn grades. A survey of more than 100,000 7th through 11th graders in 15 ethnically mixed school districts serving students at all economic levels asked students, "When you work really hard in school, which of the following reasons are most important to you?" The most frequently checked option, chosen by about three-quarters of the students from all ethnic and socioeconomic groups, was, "I need the grades to get into college." An ethnographic study of students in a high school in an affluent community also revealed that students considered their efforts to obtain good grades as the price of . . . . ~ . . . ac mission to a competitive co" ~ eye. Stun ents were strategic, even conniving, focusing on "doing school" rather than on learning or mastering academic material (Pope, 20001. Poor motivation to learn is more serious at the high school level than in earlier grades. Many studies show that as students progress from elemen- tary to middle school and on to high school, motivation and academic . . .. . . .. . .
STUDENT ENGA GEMENT AND DISENGA GEMENT 19 engagement steadily decline (Eccles and Wigfield, 1992; Eccles, Wigfield, and Schiefele, 1998; Epstein and McPartland, 1976; Marks, 2000; McDermott, Mordell, and Stolzful, 2001; National Center for Education Statistics, 2000b; Stipek, 20021. Recent national data show that student absenteeism (measured as cutting classes or skipping school for reasons other than illness) increases substantially with grade level 11 percent of 8th graders, 17 percent of 10th graders, and 33 percent of 12th graders reported skipping at least 1 day of school during a 4-week period (National Center for Education Statistics, 20021. Corresponding to the gradual decline in student engagement, interna- tional comparisons reveal that the academic performance of U.S. students in mathematics and science slips from near the top of the list of 48 countries at the elementary level to near the bottom during the high school years (National Center for Education Statistics, 1999a). The poor performance of U.S. high school students is explained partly by the increasing disparities in performance associated with race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status found as students progress through school. But the academic achievement even of the top-performing high school students from the United States compares unfavorably with that of their counterparts in other nations (National Cen- ter for Education Statistics, 1998b). Explanations for the poor showing of American high school students abound, but themes do emerge. Darling-Hammond (1997, p.15) notes that several analyses of American education (cf. Boyer, 1983; Goodlad, 1984; Sizer, 1984) have been remarkably similar in their critiques of a system that has sought to "manage schooling simply and efficiently by setting up imper- sonal relationships, superficial curricula, and routinized teaching." High schools that are large, bureaucratized, and fragmented compound the prob- lem of uninspired pedagogy. Unless students in these schools come with their own intrinsic motivation to learn (or at least to get good grades), they are likely to feel alienated from their teachers and coursework (Boston Plan for Excellence in the Public Schools, 2001; Halperin, 1998; William T. Grant Foundation, 1988). The typically large, comprehensive high school offers a wide range of courses intended to match students' diverse interests and skill levels. Al- though the specialized topical courses of the "shopping mall high school" (Powell et al., 1985) provide students with choices, such schools lack a sense of community and the kind of unifying sense of purpose that the research reviewed in this volume indicates is needed to effectively engage students in what Hill, Foster, and Gendler (1990) call "high schools with character," with distinctive purposes and identities. The "shopping mall high school" is also not sharply focused on ensuring that all students ac- quire the intellectual skills they need to be well prepared for adulthood. The large, comprehensive high school, the predominant model in the
20 ENGAGING SCHOOLS United States, is in serious need of reform. Too many students are falling through the cracks physically dropping out and psychologically tuning out. The steady decrease in school engagement and motivation to learn that occurs as students progress from the early grades, through middle school, and into high school, and corresponding drop in the ranking of U.S. stu- dents relative to their international counterparts in standardized measures of learning, strongly suggest that something is seriously wrong with Ameri- can high schools. The current situation is aptly described in a summary of a focus group conducted with Boston high school students: In Boston's non-exam high schools, the profound alienation from school of the majority of the students and their intense need for belonging cannot be exaggerated. Though Boston has well-developed career pathways, the bottom half of students is largely invisible and left out, leaving the major- ity of students with no trajectory or sense of where school might get them. Many of these students drop out before they enter grade ten (Boston Plan for Excellence in the Public Schools, 2001~. URBAN HIGH SCHOOLS Some urban high schools have excellent records of equipping their students with the skills they need to succeed in postsecondary education and in the workplace. But as a group, they are failing to meet the needs of too many of their students (Hill, Campbell, and Harvey, 2000; Lippman, Burns, and McArthur, 1996~. Improving the quality of urban high schools is critically important not only for the students who attend them, but also for the future prosperity and quality of life of cities and the nation as a whole (Hill et al., 2000~. High schools do not exist in a vacuum. The environments students live in before high school and those in which the school and its students are enmeshed greatly shape what goes on in a school (Brooks-Gunn and Duncan, 1997~. Although the growing complexity of life for children and families across the socioeconomic spectrum has made school engagement a challenge for all, the problem is greatest for schools in marginalized urban communities with high concentrations of poverty (Balfanz, 2000; Neild and Balfanz, 2001; Oriand, 1990~. Despite facing greater challenges, resources are relatively poor in urban schools (Augenblick, Myers, and Anderson, 1997; Parrish, Hikido, and Fowler, 1998; Schwartz, 1999), which explains in part why urban schools serving low-income children also have the least qualified teachers (Darling- Hammond, 2002; Ferguson, 1998; Oakes, 1990) and the highest teacher absenteeism and turnover (Lippman et al., 1996, pp. 88-97~. Inequities exist even within urban districts, with the schools serving relatively more affluent students spending more per student than schools serving very low-
STUDENT ENGA GEMENT AND DISENGA GEMENT 21 income students (Roza and Miles, 20021. Conditions in some urban schools are deplorable, with students neither expected nor given much opportunity to learn (see Fine, 1994; Kozol, 1992; Meier, 2002; Valenzuela, 19991. It is commonplace for the weakest and least experienced teachers to be assigned to the neediest students and for course offerings to preclude most students from meeting college entry requirements. School buildings are frequently dilapidated and nonfunctioning, and provide no opportunities for recre- ation. These conditions make it difficult to establish trust, respect for author- ity, and the kinds of relationships in the school community among students, teachers, staff, and parents that are needed for students to develop and achieve their potential (Comer, 1980; Comer, Haynes, and Toyner, 19961. It is not surprising that students in urban high schools claim to fee! less socially connected to their schools than do students attending suburban high schools (Anderman, 20021. Thus, students with the greatest needs currently receive the least adequate resources. Urban Students The exact statistical profile of urban students depends on how "urban" is defined. More than 28 percent of all students are enrolled in urban schools when urban is defined to include all cities with a population of at least 50,000 that are the core of a metropolitan statistical area (MSA) or consolidated metropolitan statistical area (CMSA). Slightly more than 15 percent of all students attend urban schools using a more restrictive defini- tion that includes only cities of at least 250,000 (National Center for Edu- cation Statistics, 1998a). However "urban" is defined, urban students dis- proportionately come from families with incomes below the poverty line, attend schools where a high percentage of students are poor, live in socially and economically distressed neighborhoods, and are from a racial or ethnic . . minority group. Nearly a third (30.5 percent) of children ages 5 to 17 living in the 100 largest cities are living in poverty, compared to 22 percent in midsize cities, 13.3 percentin suburbs, and 19.3 percentin towns end ruralareas (Council of Great City Schools, 20001. The concentration of poverty in urban areas is growing. Between 1970 and 1990, the percent of U.S. children who resided in distressed neighborhoods in the 50 largest cities rose from 3 to 17 percent (Annie E. Casey Foundation, 19971. Given the large proportion of urban children who live in poverty, it is not surprising that children living in large urban areas are most likely to attend schools with substantial concentrations of economically disadvan- taged students. One national sample of elementary, middle, and high school students showed that 40 percent of urban students attend high-poverty
22 ENGAGING SCHOOLS TABLE 1-1 Percentage of Urban Elementary and Secondary Students by Race/Ethnicity Asian/ Pacific White Islander Black Hispanic Total Big city 24.8 7.3 35.5 31.7 99.3 Medium city 53.7 3.6 24.3 16.6 98.2 All schools 61.4 4.0 16.9 16.0 98.3 NOTE: Nationally, Native Americans are 1.4 percent of all students. Data are unavailable for urban locations. SOURCE: National Center for Education Statistics (2000a). schools (defined as schools where the poverty concentration is at least 40 percent), compared to only 10 percent of suburban students and 26 percent of rural students (Lippman et al., 1996~. Black and Hispanic students are far more likely than Asian and white students to attend urban schools in general, and high-poverty urban schools in particular (Lippman et al., 1996, p. lo).2 Furthermore, urban schools have a disproportionate number of students of color (see Table 1-11. In a report documenting a trend toward the growing segregation of low-income students of color in poorly performing urban schools, Orfield (2002) has found that in schools where 50 to 60 percent of the students are Black or Hispanic, on average at least 60 percent of the students are poor. In schools where at least 80 percent of the students are Black or Hispanic, an average of 80 to 90 percent of the students are poor. All of the demographic characteristics of urban school students are statistically associated with poorer educational outcomes (Halpern-Felsher et al., 1997; Tencks and Phillips, 1998; National Research Council, 2002c), although the causal mechanisms that produce these outcomes are not well understood (Cornell, Halpern-Felsher, and Brooks-Gunn, 1997~. Concen- trated poverty in the neighborhoods where students live is also associated with lower school achievement (Abt Associates, 1993; Catsambis and Beveridge, 2001; National Research Council, 1990; Orfield, 1999; U.S. Department of Education, 2000~. Furthermore, an analysis of data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (Guo, 1998) found that poverty in adolescence, or concurrent poverty, has a greater influence on adolescent achievement in school than poverty earlier in life. Schellenberg (1999, p.l30) concludes from his review of four interlocking studies he conducted in the St. Paul, MN, public schools " . . . the degree to which poor children are 2Information on Native Americans was not given in most of the demographic data found.
STUDENT ENGA GEMENT AND DISENGA GEMENT 23 surrounded by other poor children both in their neighborhood and at school has as strong an effect on their achievement as their own poverty. Concentration of poverty in the neighborhood and the school affects all children, poor and non-poor." Lippman et al. (1996) examined whether differences in measures of engagement and achievement persisted after con- trolling for the effects of school poverty concentration. They found that after the greater concentration of poverty in urban schools was statistically controlled, differences between groups of students on virtually all indica- tors of engagement and achievement either disappeared or were greatly diminished. Variables associated with neighborhood poverty (e.g., violence, insta- n~ty In living arrangements) can nave an ettect on academic achievement as well. For example, McLanahan (1985) found that among white single- parent households, poverty and the stress associated with family disruption accounted for nearly all of the negative effects of family structure on children's educational attainment (i.e., dropping out from high school); for Black households, the results were more mixed. In households of all ethnic groups, young adolescents living in poverty received fewer opportunities for learning stimulation and spent less time with their parents, especially their fathers (Bradley, Corwyn, McAdoo, and Coll, 20011. Research by Brooks-Gunn and Duncan (1997) explores the ways in which neighborhood conditions create "pathways" or mechanisms through which family income operates to affect indicators of children's well-being. These indicators include school achievement (e.g., grade repetition, expul- sion or suspension, dropping out of school), cognitive outcomes (e.g., diffi- culty in learning to read), emotional outcomes (e.g., being treated for an emotional problem), and physical health outcomes (e.g., lead poisoning, chronic asthma). The mechanisms are complex, and there is still much to learn. What is clear is that the deck is stacked against children who live in large urban communities with a high concentration of families living in . ... . .. . . . ~ ~ . poverty. Making matters worse, as the percentage of students at a school who are living in poverty rises, the school conditions needed to enable those students to succeed (e.g., sufficient resources, teacher quality, educator stability, small school size) decline (see Darling-Hammond, 1990; Lippman et al., 1996; National Research Council, 20023; Rebell, 2002; Wasley et al., 20001. Hochschild (in press) calls these conditions "nested inequalities." The very students who need the most resources receive the fewest, and in the end, pay the biggest price in terms of school performance and nonschoo! outcomes (Darling-Hammond, 1990, 20021. This demographic profile of urban students and communities high- lights the challenges faced by urban high schools. Equally important, but less studied, are the cultural richness and strengths for teaching and learn-
24 ENGAGING SCHOOLS ing of many urban communities (Delpit, 1995; Irvine, 19901. What is usu- ally conceived of as a problem, such as a large population of English- language learners or new immigrants, is also an asset and a resource. Immi- grants bring a wealth of opportunities for all students to be exposed directly to political issues, social and cultural issues, art, music, language, customs, religions, and trades that they might otherwise have to read about in text- books. The harsh realities and challenges cannot be ignored, but greater attention to the opportunities that urban centers provide for education is essential to improving the schools in those communities. Engaging students who are growing up in areas of concentrated poverty will require exploiting the many strengths and opportunities available in most culturally diverse urban communities as well as addressing the challenges. DROPPING OUT: THE ULTIMATE IN DISENGAGEMENT Dropping out of high school is for many students the last step in a long process through which students become disengaged from school. Indeed, many urban schools plan on substantial attrition in the number of courses they offer at the 11th and 12th grade levels (Fine, 19941. Graduation rates vary by ethnicity. Green (2001) calculated graduation rates3 nationwide and for major school districts. At the national level, the graduation rate in 1998 was 74 percent. Differences were found among ethnic groups, with white students substantially more likely to graduate than Black and Latino students. Students in big city high schools were found to be substantially less likely to graduate from high school than their counterparts in suburban and rural schools. Both the overall dropout rate and the degree of disparity among ethnic groups varied across cities (see Table 1-21. Although some cities have only a few problem high schools, in other cities they are the norm (Balfanz, 20011. Balfanz and Legters (2001) identi- fied approximately 250 urban U.S. high schools in which fewer than half of the entering freshmen advance to the 12th grade with their classmates. These failing schools enroll approximately 60 percent of all students of color in the 35 large urban school districts that were examined. High dropout rates are not inevitable in urban schools, however. Even 3The graduation rate was calculated by dividing the number of regular diplomas awarded in 1998 by the number of 8th-grade students enrolled in 1993, multiplied by 100. Calcula- tions of graduation rates for school districts were adjusted for changes in total and racial/ ethnic subgroup enrollment in those districts in the 5-year period between 1993 and 1998. Greens calculations yield graduation rates that are much lower than NCES High School Completion Rates. This difference is largely explained by the inclusion of GED recipients in the NCES calculations. Other technical differences are discussed by Green (2001 pp. 8-g).
STUDENT ENGA GEMENT AND DISENGA GEMENT TABLE 1-2 Graduation Rates (percent) for Selected Urban School Districts, 1998 25 General Black Latino White Graduation Graduation Graduation Graduation District Rate Rate Rate Rate New York City 54 42 45 80 Los Angeles USD 56 56 48 81 Chicago District 299 47 45 43 59 Philadelphia 70 65 53 91 Houston ISD 52 55 42 84 Baltimore City 54 55 NA 48 Cleveland 28 29 26 23 Detroit 57 57 49 43 Memphis 42 39 NA 50 Milwaukee 43 34 42 74 San Diego USD 62 54 43 79 Dallas ISD 52 60 39 72 U.S. Total 74 56 54 78 NOTE: Selected cities correspond to "Big city" classification in Table 1-1. NA means not available. SOURCE: Green (2001). controlling for a student's family background, the school a student attends has a strong effect on whether that student persists or drops out. Rumberger and Thomas (2000) estimated 10th-grade dropout rates from 1990 to 1992 for a sample of 247 urban and suburban high schools in 1990. Only about half of the variation in school dropout rates could be attributed to the background characteristics of the students who attended them. Another study found that only 20 percent of the variability in mean school atten- dance rates could be explained by the background characteristics of stu- dents (Bryk and Thum, 19891. Some of the remaining variance presumably was explained by qualities of the schools, such as school size, quality of the teachers, and the social and academic climate. The variation in dropout rates among high schools that serve predominantly low-income students of color suggests that reforms could increase schools' holding power. OUTCOMES AFTER HIGH SCHOOL Dropping out has serious consequences for students. The manufactur- ing jobs with good wages that used to be available to unskilled workers are rapidly disappearing (Drucker, 19961. National Youth Employment Coali- tion (1999) estimates show that only about 15 percent of jobs available in 1999 could be filled by unskilled workers, compared to approximately 60 percent in 1950. Furthermore, the Coalition's estimates show that nearly
26 ENGAGING SCHOOLS half of all young people ages 17 to 24 who have not completed high school are unemployed or hold jobs paying less than $300 per week. The median annual earnings of men ages 25 to 34 who dropped out of high school plummeted from $30,346 in 1970 to $18,582 in 1999.4 Although the average income of women ages 25 to 34 who dropped out of high school increased slightly between 1970 and 1999, the average annual income of female dropouts in 1999 was only $10,174 far lower than that of male dropouts and not a living wage (National Center for Education Statistics, 2001b, p. 1371. During the same period, the average earnings for high school graduates without postsecondary education decreased by 27 percent for men, and rose only slightly for women. For both men and women, obtaining the kind of solid educational foundation during high school that would prepare one for postsecondary education has become indispensable for access to ad- equately remunerated employment. Although finishing high school is indeed an asset for job security after graduation, even students who complete urban high schools in disadvan- taged communities do not necessarily leave with the skills they need to be gainfully employed. In the 35 largest central cities in the country, more than half of entering high school students read at the sixth-grade level or below (Grosso de Leon, 2002), and many of these students make little progress while they are in high school (Campbell, Hombo, and Mazzeo, 2000; Dreeben and Gamoran, 1986; Education Trust, 1999; Guiton and Oakes, 19951. The problem is acute for low-income students of color. On average, African-American and Latino 17-year-olds taking the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) read about as well as white 13-year-olds. The findings in math are equally distressing. In 2000, 40 percent of 12th graders in central cities scored "below basic" on the NAEP (National Cen- ter for Education Statistics, 2001a), compared to 32 percent in urban fringe (suburban) and large towns, and 35 percent in rural and small towns. An important point to remember is that although the differences between ur- ban and suburban 12th graders are not great, the picture is actually worse than these data suggest. Because the proportion of students who have dropped out by the 12th grade is much higher in urban than suburban schools, the urban 12th graders assessed in these data can be considered the high achievers in their class "survivors" of the central city schools. Attending a failing high school, and thereby being placed "at risk" of dropping out or being undereducated, also places youth at risk of involve- ment with the criminal justice system (Fine et al., 2001; Poe-Yamagata and 4In constant 2000 dollars.
STUDENT ENGA GEMENT AND DISENGA GEMENT 27 Tones, 20001. A full 54 percent of inmates in New York State facilities enter the system as dropouts, with neither a GED nor a high school diploma (Gang), Schiraldi, and Ziedenberg, 1998; New York State Senate Demo- cratic Task Force on Criminal Justice Reform, 20001. Using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth and U.S. census microleve! data on state prisoners and local jail inmates, a recent study found evidence that high school students attending high school in a state in which educational resources are relatively low have a much higher probability of ending up in jails and prisons as adults (Arum and LaFree, submitted). High student/ teacher ratios in high school also have been linked to higher adult incar- ceration rates (Arum and Beattie, 19991. Attending a poorly resourced high school or leaving high school without graduating does not necessarily lead youth to the prison door, but it is a well-worn path, particularly for low- income students of color. This sad litany of statistics highlights the importance of the topic of this volume. For the sake of the youth involved and for the sake of society, we cannot ignore a pervasive problem with such serious consequences. The data we have just summarized should strengthen our resolve to do what is necessary to make high schools more inviting and engaging for their stu- dents. THE POTENTIAL OF SCHOOL REFORM Nearly all cities have at least some high-performing high schools that serve economically disadvantaged students (Terald, 20011. In 2001, The Education Trust (Terald, 2001) published a list of more than 4,000 high- performing schools that serve primarily low-income students or students from historically disadvantaged racial/ethnic minority groups.5 Although the great majority of these schools were at the elementary level, the pres- ence of even a smattering of urban high schools on the list gives reason to hope that outcomes can be improved in critically underperforming urban high schools. School reform efforts to date, however, have not improved outcomes for urban high school students on a large scale (National Research Council, 2002a; Puma et al., 19971. Evaluations of whole-school reform efforts over the past decade have been mixed at best (e.g., Berends, Chun, Schuyler, 56`High-performing,, schools were those serving students with reading and/or math perfor- mance in the top third among all schools in the state at the same grade level; schools ``serving disadvantaged students" were those with at least 50 percent low-income students and at least 50 percent African-American and Hispanic students.
28 ENGAGING SCHOOLS Stockly, and Briggs, 2002; Berends, Heilbrunn, McKelvey, and Sullivan, 1999). Admittedly, a few success stories often involving a highly select group of teachers and administrators and more resources than are available to most schools do not give us total confidence that large-scale improvement is within our grasp. But now we also have promising models for high school reform (American Federation of Teachers, 1998; American Youth Policy Forum, 2000; George and McEwin, 1999; see Chapters 7 and 8, this vol- ume) and a fair amount of knowledge about educational policies and prac- tices that produce high levels of engagement and learning for even the most disadvantaged students (National Research Council, 2002a; Stringfield et al., 1997; see also Chapter 51. Although the powerful effects of students' demographic and social circumstances on their educational attainment and achievement should not be underestimated (Coleman et al., 1966; National Research Council, 2002c; National Center for Education Statistics, 2000a, 2001a), educational policies and support services can mitigate the effects of such circumstances (see Chapter 6, this volume). It is too soon to know whether these reform approaches can be successful on a large scale, but it is also too soon to become discouraged. What would be required to increase students' motivation to succeed and their engagement in learning? After a thorough review of the evidence, the committee finds merit in the succinct answer provided by Newmann, Wehlage, and Lamborn (1992, p. 191: "If students are to invest themselves in the forms of mastery required by schools, they must perceive the general enterprise of schooling as legitimate, deserving of their committed effort, and honoring them as respected members." High schools must make stu- dents believe and feel that they are respected and that they belong, that they can learn what they are being required to learn, and that the lessons of school "make sense" within the context of their own lives. All this, of course, is much easier to prescribe than to do especially in high-poverty, urban school communities. We do not believe that a universal formula to accomplish these goals exists, or that one is likely to be discovered. But we do believe that the general principles that we have learned about motivation and engagement can be applied and adapted to improve the way that schools carry out their core activities, and thus the engagement and investment of their students in learning. This volume summarizes evidence that can be used to guide efforts to improve adolescents' engagement in school. Because research at the high school level is sparse compared to that at the elementary and middle school levels, the committee was broad and flexible in its search. We examined tightly controlled experiments, program evaluations, surveys, and case stud- ies. We refer occasionally to well-informed but still untested theories and
STUDENT ENGA GEMENT AND DISENGA GEMENT 29 conjectures. But we make recommendations only when the accumulated evidence points us clearly in a particular direction, and we are careful to be clear about the source and nature of the evidence clescribeci to allow reaclers to draw their own conclusions. Again and again the evidence reveals the complexity and interconnec- tions among practices. Most of the reforms we suggest are necessary; none is sufficient. Furthermore, all of them need to be aciapteci to the particular circumstances of incliviclual communities and schools. ORGANIZATION OF THE REPORT In Chapter 2, we discuss general principles of achievement motivation and summarize research on the effects of eclucational practices on stuclent motivation and engagement. The research reviewed in this chapter inclucles many experimental as well as classroom-baseci studies. Chapter 3 discusses how these principles of engagement can inform classroom teaching, focus- ing on literacy and mathematics. It also discusses the importance of sup- porting teacher learning and provides examples of strategies for promoting teacher collaboration and clevelopment. Moving from the classroom to the school, Chapter 4 focuses on the larger school context, especially the im- portance of an intense focus on learning within a supportive school com- munity. Research on organizational features of schools, such as tracking, and on the stuclent population and size of schools is also reviewed. Chapter 5 moves beyond the school by discussing strategies for con- necting schools better to their communities and to students' families. It also summarizes research on peer effects on high school stuclent engagement, and suggests strategies for maximizing positive and minimizing negative peer effects. Creating connections with the community is cliscusseci in Chap- ter 6 as one among several strategies for aciciressing nonacademic needs (e.g., health, mental health, family problems, pregnancy, and neighborhood violence) that can interfere with students' ability to engage in academic work. This chapter discusses what high schools can clo to meet students' nonacademic needs without becoming overly clistracteci from their core acac emlc mission. The next two chapters move to the issue of scaling up the clevelopment of intellectually engaging high schools by reviewing current approaches to high school reform. Chapter 7 discusses theme-baseci schools, especially those that emphasize eclucation for occupations as a strategy for engaging students' interest and giving them instruction and experiences in the com- munity that strengthen their commitment to school. Chapter 8 reviews recent efforts at designing and implementing comprehensive reform ap- proaches in urban high schools, and the challenges of scaling up. The volume ends with Chapter 9, which presents conclusions and rec-
30 ENGAGING SCHOOLS ommendations for aspects of high school policies and practices and for future research. For each of the topics addressed in this volume, the discussion focuses on what the evidence suggests intellectually engaging high schools should look like and the factors that appear to support and undermine engaging educational policies and practices. Less is said about the process of school reform how these practices get implemented on a large scale although a chapter is devoted to the qualities of some of the major current reform models. In brief, this volume focuses more on where we want to go than on how we get there. Although the focus is primarily on what can be done in high schools, the policies and practices described in this volume have important implica- tions for many issues beyond its scope including, for example, policies that affect who is attracted into the field of teaching, preservice teacher and leadership training and credentialing policies, state and federal testing poli- cies, graduation requirements, and school funding and resource allocation. References are occasionally made to these policies, but they are not dis- cussed in detail.