Civic Enterprises Releases On the Front Lines of Schools Report: Perspective of Teachers and Principals on the High School Dropout Problem

On the Front Lines of Schools:  Perspectives of Teachers and Principals on the High School Dropout Problem, a report by Civic Enterprises in association with Peter D. Hart Research Associates for the AT&T Foundation and the America’s Promise Alliance, documents a mix of hopeful views and challenging statistics concerning how, and how well, those on the front lines of America's schools -- teachers and principals -- understand the nation's high school dropout crisis.

Teachers and administrators in public high schools recognize there is a dropout problem, know they are confronted with daunting challenges in classrooms and in schools, and express strong support for reforms to address high dropout rates.

Yet, less than one-third of teachers believe that schools should expect all students to meet high academic standards, graduate with the skills to do college-level work, and provide extra support to struggling students to help them meet those standards.

Although more than half of principals believe schools should hold these expectations for all students, significant majorities of both teachers and principals do not believe that students at risk for dropping out would respond to these high expectations and work harder. Our data, focus groups and colloquium indicate that the views of many teachers are shaped by what they see in the classroom, particularly among students who show low skill levels and weak motivation late into high school. Teachers, in large part, believe that they and their students are not receiving the necessary resources and supports. As a result, many teachers are skeptical about the possibility of educating every student for college.

On the Front Lines of Schools provides a piece of the puzzle that was missing -- the voices of teachers and principals in the high school dropout debate,” said Alma Powell, Chair, America’s Promise Alliance. “There are opportunities and challenges and we are serious about both. As the America’s Promise Alliance moves forward on more than 100 Dropout Summits in all 50 states over the next few years, this report greatly advances our efforts to engage schools and communities in addressing head-on their dropout challenges.”

For the report, written by John M. Bridgeland, John J. DiIulio, Jr. and Robert Balfanz, Civic Enterprises conducted surveys, focus groups and convened a colloquium of teachers and education experts to gather and interpret the findings. For the most part, the data is somewhat unsettling: When it comes to describing, analyzing, and responding to the nation’s high school dropout crisis, there is an expectations gap between the views of teachers and principals, and those of parents and students.

“By hearing the perspectives of teachers and principals, this report puts all of us foursquare on the front lines of education,” said Bob Wise, President, Alliance for Excellent Education. “When joined with The Silent Epidemic’s previous survey of high school dropout attitudes, we gain a complete---and challenging---picture of issues faced in thousands of classrooms.  The data itself is revealing; what is glaring is the report revealing the vastly differing perspectives between teachers and students.  By highlighting these differences in attitude, On the Front Lines of Schools shows policy makers that ending the “achievement gap” largely depends on narrowing the “expectation gap.”

About Civic Enterprises
Civic Enterprises is a public policy firm that helps corporations, nonprofits, foundations, universities and governments develop and spearhead innovative public policies to strengthen our communities and country. To learn more, visit