2.3. Situation analysis

Scope of the problem – how big is it?

Do we have information about the causes? Is there a pattern for causes of early school leaving or drop out?

What have we done so far? What worked and what didn’t?

Resource analysis

  • HR – What personal competencies do we have?
  • OD – What organizational competencies do we have?
  • How much staff time do we have?
  • Do we have methodology?
  • Do we have equipment/space?

Do we have an external expert network?

The analysis of the situation comes after the goal setting as now we know what do we want to achieve. In order to bridge the gap between the desired future and the present situation by a plan we must know where are we now compared to the wishful future. 

Scope of the problem – how big is it?

Data and numbers do not speak for themselves. They have to be converted into information (data has to be interpreted). The interpretation comes from grouping data and finding relationships among them. This means that we will not be able to do any planning if we only have the number of drop outs or early leavers. We will have to find patterns like, e.g. do they drop out early or at the end of the year etc...

The EWS’s main purpose is to offer a systemic approach to identify students who are potentially in danger of dropping out from school. There are several signs of this danger as there are countless reasons for dropping out, these are all different by every individual. Nevertheless, the most common signs can be monitored and the use of this monitoring may help to identify groups of students in danger.

For the purpose of CroCooS we mapped the most typical distress signals that could be used and screens for identifying potential drop out students. The six distress signals which were introduced in the chapter 1.2.2 based on the study of international practices offer a framework for data collection on individual students. 

The presence of one distress signal is most probably not enough to say that this or that student is a potential drop out. For example, increasing number of classes missed (absenteeism) without all the other signals may not be a sign but may come from e.g. a sports injury. We strongly believe that at least 3 signals must be strongly seen to say that personal intervention is needed.

The six distress signals we advise to monitor at least are the following:

Signals connected to official standards

  • Absenteeism
  • Decreasing achievement
  • School year repetition (note: depends on the system of each country)

Signals connected to behaviour

  • Being bored in the classroom (low motivation)
  • Drastic behavioural changes (aggression, introversion, rhapsodic behaviour)
  • Bullying (both sides)

Signals in group I. are more quantitative, in group II. are more qualitative in nature. The Toolkit provides suggested tools for all signals. It is particularly advisable for large schools to build a database maintained regularly to keep track of students and help the identification of students at risk. Smaller institutions may solve the tracking of students with staff meetings and less statistics.

It has to be emphasized that screening is not a one shot event but a process. If the school screens the students only in the first grade of high school (mostly 9th grade) it is not possible to see a trend in their achievements.

We see screening as a process where students in danger may show distress signals at different times and not at once. When the number of distress signals reach the critical number (say 3) in the middle of the school year the EWS should ring the alarm and action, intervention should be taken as soon as possible and as long as it is needed.

Besides the main 6 distress signals there may be several others which the school may consider monitoring. Here is a list of possible other signals which are by no means comprehensive:

  • Pregnancy
  • Constant lying
  • Signs of physical abuse
  • Alcohol/drug use in school
  • Frequent change of school
  • Change in physical appearance
  • Peer relation problems
  • Physical/mental illness
  • Learning difficulties

Do we have information about the causes? Is there a pattern for causes of early school leaving or drop out?

It is important to emphasize that data and information do not tell us the causes. Typically the correlation between two data means that they go together: if one is present or growing it is probable that the other will do so. But this does not mean that one is the cause of another. The distress signals are signals and not causes. Just to mention one thing: decreasing achievement may have innumerable causes from a broken relationship to decreasing vision or from family crisis to learning problems or personal conflicts with a new teacher.

The causes always make up a different set and differ by individuals. There could be, however, patterns of causes which should be identified. Just to mention a few: boredom in class may be connected to a subject or a teacher or a day in the week. Bullying may be related to a few classes or year. Absenteeism may be more frequent in certain months of the year.

What have we done so far? What worked and what didn’t?

It is very important to prepare an inventory of the actions taken regarding the drop out situation. The school has to have an educated guess so that teachers can decide on what to continue doing and what should they stop practicing.

The identification of successful and less successful activities is inevitable and the integral part of the analysis of the present situation.

Resource analysis

The resource analysis is advised to be done during the situation analysis but should be revisited time to time because the action plan to be produced may change the resource needs and the lack or abundance of resources may affect the goals set by the school.

Nevertheless, the resources are always there. Its use is, at least to some extent, dependent on the priorities and the decisions of the school leadership.

Resources can be grouped to human, physical and financial resources. The school is in a special situation where most resources are strictly regulated by the legal environment and the maintainer. This means that schools have to use the resources that they already have.

The human resources inventory includes the capacities (time), skills and attitudes of staff. We are talking about “staff” because it is not only the teacher who may be involved in operating the EWS. The school leadership has to make a decision how much staff time it will allocate for developing or operating the EWS. It will also have to make an inventory of the organizational and personal competencies already available and still missing and may plan to incorporate external resources (experts, volunteers, institutional partners).

In order to support schools with further methods the CroCooS Toolkit has been developed. The Toolkit provided for the EWS intends to help the school and the staff to develop their competencies. 

The physical environment in school is a given condition most of the time. The EWS generally does not have an extensive space or equipment requirement but the EWS team needs a place to meet, also a suitable space for making individual and group interviews, meeting with external experts and parents. It is better if such a space is less formal and more comfortable than a huge classroom. It also has to have computer capacity where student data can be stored and is safe from a data protection point of view.

We suggest preparing a list of potential external resources to be used in either phase of developing or operating the EWS. The list may include individuals or organizations but if organizations are listed it is advisable to have a list of contact persons as well. The aim is to make the EWS as effective as possible by using external and internal resources in a healthy balance. 

Actually on student level similar or he same questions can be asked and activities could be arranged along the same lines. They say that this is in my head anyway why should I spend time to write it. In fact the analysis is not just for one teacher but for a team and its members are sometimes from outside of school. They may share information not known for teachers and they can get information from teachers they are not aware of. Generally saying nothing should be written that is known by everybody but everything should be noted that may not be known by an interested party.

The resource analysis is particularly important. Does the teacher have all the necessary competencies? But only after a situational analysis can a teacher talk to a psychologist for that matter. The teacher needs to ask concrete questions and professional help not only putting forward a question: what can I do with this student? Or even worst, ask the psychologist to „fix the kid”.

ESLplus - European Learning Space on Early School Leaving

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