Saturday, March 8, 2008

Mayor hears students' ideas to curb dropout rate

Dean says their input is valued because they're on 'front lines' By NATALIA MIELCZAREK • Staff Writer (Tennessean) • March 8, 2008 Lack of experienced teachers, informed guidance counselors and an uplifting atmosphere contribute to students' dropping out of Nashville schools. At least, that's what 300 Metro and private school students think. They shared their concerns, and some solutions to curb the dropout problem, with Mayor Karl Dean during Friday's Mayor's Youth Summit at Vanderbilt University. Dean told the young people he valued their comments because they — unlike anyone else — know firsthand what makes teenagers stay in school. Johnathan Tharpe, a sophomore at Antioch High, said he wants the mayor to live up to his promise to lower Metro's 20.4 percent dropout rate. "Nowadays, kids don't think it's a problem to drop out, but it's not OK," Johnathan said. "We have a new mayor, and a lot of things have been changing, so I figured the dropout rate would go lower, too. They brought all these kids here, so they must care." Kids not short of ideas The teenagers spent five hours talking about positive and negative effects of dropping out, life inside and outside of high school, and ways the community and family can help them succeed. Some suggested that teachers be paid more so they would come to work motivated and better prepared. Others said they wanted to see more internship opportunities to give students incentives to stay in school. Dean said he would study the comments and forward them to the members of his task force charged with studying causes and solutions to the dropout rate. "They're obviously on the front lines, so hearing their opinion about how we can keep kids in schools and why kids drop out is vital to the work of the task force," Dean said. "This is right on track with my desire to take dropout rates and truancy more serious than before."

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