I have recently finished the book, Leaving to Learn by Elliot Washor and Charles Nojkowski. Its premise is that students that are potentially at-risk for dropping out of school would be better served if they could learn outside of school. The entire book focuses on how schools could keep these students in school more if the schools would let them leave school more. The whole notion is that students are not engaged in schools currently, but they are engaged in “real life”, so the students should spend more of their time out in the real world to be more engaged in learning.
It is an interesting premise, not only for those students who struggle in being engaged in schools, but for all students that attend public schools. I read this book hoping not to solve our dropout problem, but to provide an opportunity to solve our engagement problem. Even our best students in public education are not often fully engaged in their education. They are the ones, who like the at-risk students, have figured out the rules of school, but unlike the at-risk students, they continue to play by the rules.
Public schools, in my opinion, are at a precarious crossroads in their existence. They must continue to educate students to their full extent, yet grapple with the realization that their full extent is hindered by their current systemic practices. A new system of learning is needed, and Leaving to Learn may just have a few answers.
As a proud supporter of competency-based education, I believe there are a lot of real life opportunities for learning for our students in our communities. No, not the community college twenty miles away or the university in the other direction, but in our Main Street businesses and institutions. If we look closely at our communities that are many, many opportunities for leadership and learning. Our students can learn valuable skills and dispositions in finance, health care, agriculture, retail, computer science, advocacy, service and a myriad of other disciplines. We can truly make the content more relevant and more engaging for more students.
Competency-based education can be, and should be, community-based education. We should use the resources that surround and support the school to enhance the learning mission of the school. I do not want our students to feel their only choice to learn is to leave; rather, I want them to connect with the community so they never have to leave this fertile place for learning opportunities.