Question: How do we go about reaching those kids who have given up on school and the idea that they can be successful?
Answer: I truly believe in the concept of "No Child Left Behind" (NCLB) and I think many school personnel do also but they just don't have the tools to practically make it work.
There are two ways that I know of to attempt to reach the "unreachable" students. One is with relationships; the other is with competency-based learning.
It is every school employee's responsibility to attempt to connect with every student they encounter during the course of their day. Most of the children who were ever involved in school shootings were the students who did not have any positive relationships with any adult in their lives. Make an attempt every day to reach out to every student no matter how withdrawn they seem.
Secondly, when you implement the ideas of competency-based learning, students will once again begin to consider that possibly they CAN be successful in school. Most of the students who are turned off to school have come to understand there is no way they will succeed. However, competency-based learning stops giving acceptable grades for inadequate work. Every student must do at least B work or receive no credit until competency is reached. There is no time limit or number of times a student can attempt an assignment. They are permitted to get help in a variety of ways. They keep working on things until they get it right. There are no more social promotions. Students actually perform up to the minimal standards set for competency. There is much more to this explanation of implementing competency-based learning but this is a beginning.
If you are interested in more information about Competency Based Learning, click here for your free copy of Creating a Competency-Based Classroom.