In the United States there are tons of problems affecting our youth, one very prevalent issue affecting the American youth for a long time has been the very high rates of school dropouts. According to DoSomething.org, a non-profit helping raise awareness on various issues affecting young people, there is one student who decides to give up on school every 29 seconds. This calculates to approximately 1,000,000 American dropouts a year, 7,000 a day (DoSomething). The US as a whole is losing credibility as being the greatest country in the world, because we continuously fall behind other countries, currently the US ranks 21 out of 26 of developed countries for high school graduation percentage (Cardoza 2012). I see the effects of these dropout rates all the time in my own neighborhood, and as an observant member of the community this issue continues to frustrate me. As a minority I feel like we always get attention for negative issues, and this problem affecting our youth has just been supporting negative ideas about us. I want to be able to change the statistics so we can make ourselves better to prove naysayers wrong. In the upcoming decades the minorities in the US will become the majority, so we must change our negative trends so that we can prosper as a country and a culture, this starts with our youth. What exactly is a dropout? The National Center for Education Studies defines dropping out as leaving school without a high school diploma or equivalent i.e. GED. This is a definite crisis in America, currently the average is one out of every four students decide to not complete their education (COP 2012). Getting a GED or High School diploma has always been important for young people to transition into becoming an independent, secure and happy adult. In America it is essential to get your high school diploma for obtaining a job, and in the next decade many people say that a post high school degree will be necessary to enter the workforce. Those with a high school diploma have a distinct economic advantage; a dropout will earn $292,000 less over a lifetime than someone with a GED or high school diploma. Currently the graduation rate in the nation is 75 percent, and it gets worse if you are a minority. Hispanics and African Americans have a graduation rate of 65 percent (USDE 2011). All these statistics are quite astounding if you never seen them before. While doing my research I asked who exactly are these people who become dropouts and why they are in that situation. Students who are living in cities are twice as likely to dropout than a student in a non-urban setting (Schwartz 2009). Along with cities comes low income students, who are 2.4 times more likely than middle-income students to drop out and 10 times more likely to dropout than up high-income students (Breslow 2012). Ethnicity seems to also flags someone as an at risk student. Hispanics and African Americans have the highest drop out rates as previously mentioned. Essentially the students in the most risk could be classified as a minority living in the inner city that is in a low-income situation. Now that we know those who are at risk, what are their reasons for dropping out? The biggest and most obvious reason for dropping out of school is academic failure. These are those students who are always behind, for example students who don’t read proficiently by fourth grade are 4 times more likely to drop out than their peers (James 2010). High absenteeism is another reason; this could be due to students cutting classes because they didn’t like classes, class was not interesting or engaging. Some students choose to drop out due to disciplinary problem, for example kids who habitually get suspended eventually leading to expulsion (DoSomething.org). These unfortunately are some of the kids that schools simply give up on due to the hassle of trying to get through to the student. There are some students who drop out because they need to get a job in order to help out their families or themselves. This brings back to the point that those who are in a low-income situation are more likely to drop out. According to the Gates Foundation 32% of people who drop out are because of financial difficulties (James 2010). Another huge reason that I frequently see is teen pregnancies and or marriages. Fifty percent of pregnant teens dropout of school, it is too hard to manage both a child and the schoolwork (James 2010). Along with pregnant mothers dropping out, usually the father of the child also drops out to get a job to support their child. The last reason that I will emphasize is drug abuse. Kids who start to do drugs at a young age much rather go smoke some dope than go to school, eventually leading to a point where they simply never attend. Drug abuse is connected with absenteeism and disciplinary problems at school. Even though high school dropouts are very prominent in America there are effective strategies that can be implemented to prevent student from dropping out. Raising our graduation rates as a country will not only boost our morale but it will boost our economic status, so we should invest a lot of time in trying to remedy the flawed ways we run out education. One strategy that must be implemented is for schools to engage and partner with parents of these at risk students. As a student gets older usually the communications between parent and teacher becomes less and less, however if the interaction between parent, teacher and student are more frequent it can change the outcome. Some schools have implemented a home visit system, where a staff member makes visits to students’ homes to update parents on their student’s academic status (Ferger 2008). This strategy will give a student a feel like their parents are willing to learn and help them through the process of completing school. Another strategy to improving graduation rates is improving and focusing on early education. Students need to have a strong foundation in which to build their academic career around. Things like preschool can boost a child’s graduation rate from 11 to 19 percent (Ferger 2008). A focus on early literacy is extremely important as well because reading and writing will be used in every subject in the future (Schargel 2006). The next strategy to highlight is a change in classroom size. Schools with successful graduates usually have 20 – 25 students a class; this makes every class a bit more personal and engaging (NEA). By doing this a teacher can be more effective by being able to see which students need the extra help. An additional strategy is creating a relationship and mentorship between students and teachers (Simmons 2012). Many schools have implemented something called an “advisories”, which are small groups of students who come together with a faculty member to create a family of sorts (Furger 2008). This makes students feel like someone wants them to succeed and provides support within the school itself. Some schools have also put together afterschool mentoring and tutoring programs to provide one on one time for students to get the extra attention necessary for them to succeed. Lastly a strategy for drop out prevention is looking out for warning signs. At every transitional stage from elementary to middle school and then onto high school there must be indicators to tell you if a student is behind and have various programs like mentoring and tutoring for those kids to become involved in (NEA). These indicators can help teachers mold their school for them, for example there are students who simply want to get a job right out of high school, for those students there must be some sort of School-to-work programs that show those youths the specific skills to prepare them for the larger demands of today’s workplace (Schargel 2006). As you may see most if not all of these strategies are to do with changing or enhancing the education system, this is because students aren’t the only ones failing so are the schools that let them fail. I learned quite a bit while doing my research, some things were very concerning and others like the implemented strategies mentioned before were very promising. I hope that educators, parents and students can create a system that is successful and brings back the value of an American education.
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2. Breslow, Jason M. "By the Numbers: Dropping Out of High School." PBS. PBS, 21 Sept. 2012. Web. 10 Apr. 2013.
3. Cardoza, Kavitha. "Graduation Rates Increase Around The Globe As U.S. Plateaus Other Countries Have Pulled Ahead, and the U.S. Falls behind." WAMU 88.5. WAMU.org, 21 Feb. 2012. Web. 10 Apr. 2013.
4. Furger, Robert. "How to End the Dropout Crisis: Ten Strategies for Student Retention." Edutopia. The George Lucas Educational Foundation, 3 Dec. 2008. Web. 09 Apr. 2013.
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