Guest Blog by: Marty Duckenfield, National Dropout Prevention Center
For nearly 20 years, the National Dropout Prevention Center has advocated service-learning as one of the most effective dropout prevention strategies. Many think students drop out due to academic failure, and this is true, as many do. Service-learning provides a way to learn that is engaging and meaningful for young people, and thus academic success follows naturally.
But there are other risk factors as significant as academic failure, and these have a huge impact on student dropout. Interestingly, service-learning meets the needs that are implicit in these risk factors: students who are disengaged with school, who don’t participate in extracurricular activities, who are involved with high risk peer groups, and who show patterns of misbehavior. There are students who don’t come to school since they don’t feel safe there. Many come from families that don’t value education, are unsupportive of the school. And many of these families are often dealing with challenging issues such as drug or alcohol abuse and frequent disruptions, such as moving or divorce.
By looking at these and other risk factors, we can readily see how participating in meaningful service-learning can provide the kinds of experiences that foster resilience and develop those characteristics in young people where they can overcome. And so, the National Dropout Prevention Center looked at all the research on resilience – what are the characteristics that young people have that enable them to succeed even when the odds are stacked against them?
Service-learning provides experiences that foster those characteristics of resilience; relationships, independence, competence, creativity, and optimism (RICCO). These characteristics, when enhanced through service-learning, have provided the edge young people need to help them become successful in school and in life.
There are no silver bullets in dropout prevention, but I have to say, service-learning comes pretty close!