Ask Reading Kingdom: How can you best deal with students who don’t seem to care about how they are doing in school?


The problem of unmotivated students is huge. One of the clearest ways of seeing the damage is to look at high school dropout numbers and the consequences that follow from not completing high school.

Statistics Brain has reported the following data:

  • Total number of high school dropouts annually: 3,030,000
  • Dropouts in the largest 50 U.S. cities: 41 percent
  • U.S. crimes committed by high school dropouts: 75 percent
  • U.S. jobs for which a high school dropout is ineligible: 90 percent
  • Lifetime earning difference (high school graduate vs. dropout): $260,000

As in so many areas of education, we have the knowledge to change this. And when that is done, the results can be impressive. For example, On Giants’ Shoulders, a nonprofit organization, has created a unique motivational program for elementary and middle schools that also functions as a community service opportunity for high school students. The program uses 15-minute, once-per-week online chats between unmotivated students and academically accomplished high school students who appreciate the value of education.

The students are paired according to interests (sports, music, art, dance, etc.). For example, a member of the high school football team is paired with a student who loves football. A group of three older/younger student pairs share a computer or tablet for the weekly online chat.

The goal of the program is to motivate students by having them interact with engaged older peers. This leads younger students to be more willing to change their patterns in the classroom and put in the time required for activities such as classroom learning, tutoring, homework help, or mentoring programs.

As is so often the case, the consistent personal attention from and interaction with a caring, non-judgmental mentor or peer is invaluable. The power of social support cannot be overemphasized. The program has a number of components and you can find out more about it on the website

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