School dropouts are defined as individuals who choose to leave school before graduating from their final grade. From the beginning of the sixties till today, as universal secondary school attendance became the norm for all individuals, dropouts have been extensively studied by educators, researchers in the field of education, as well as policymakers concerned with the problem. With some variance in personal and environmental circumstances, school dropouts represent a significant challenge to the educational sector because of the limitations they endure when getting introduced into society after dropping out. Therefore, studying the issue is of high importance to understand the reasons behind individuals dropping out as well as recommend suitable interventions aimed at addressing the problem.
The Extent of the Issue
The rates of school dropout have been explored from multiple perspectives. For instance, event dropout rates imply measuring the proportion of individuals who leave school in a single year without completing a certain schooling level. Another perspective is represented by status dropout rates that measure the ratio of the whole population of a certain age that has not completed a specific level of schooling and is not presently involved in education. Cohort dropout rates measure the dropping out among a specific cohort or group of students or a particular time period. Finally, the rates of high school completion measure the proportion of a whole population of a specific age who have left high school and earned a diploma or an equivalent.
The specific rates of school dropouts are important to consider to understand the extent of the problem itself. According to the findings of the National Center for Education Statistics (2018), in 2018, there were 2.1 million status dropouts in the age cohort of 18 to 24, with the overall status dropout rate amounting to 5.3%. It is essential to note that status dropout rates would vary by race or ethnicity. Specifically, the status dropout rate for the Asian cohort of 18 to 24-year-olds was 1.9%, 4.2% for Whites, 6.4% for Blacks, 8.0% for Hispanics, 8.1% for Pacific Islanders, 9.5% for American Indians and Alaska Natives, and 5.2% for other races (National Center for Education Statistics, 2018). Therefore, the status dropout rate for White students was the lowest compared to any other racial or ethnic group except for those who were Asian (National Center for Education Statistics, 2018). On the bright side, the overall status dropout rate decreased from 9.7% in 2006 to 5.3% in 2018, with the rate lowering for any racial and ethnic group except for Pacific Islanders, that preserved the same rate (National Center for Education Statistics, 2018).
The extent of the issue is also visible through the comparison of the status dropout rates by gender, with the rate being higher for male 16-24-year-olds as opposed to their female counterparts within the majority of racial and ethnic cohorts (National Center for Education Statistics, 2018). The status dropout rates were higher in males who were White (4.8% for males and 3.6% for females), Black (7.8% and 4.9% respectively), Hispanic (9.6% and 6.3%), Asian (2.3% and 1.6%), and for other races (5.9% and 4.4%) (National Center for Education Statistics, 2018). The statistics show that the problem of individuals dropping out of school is especially evident when reviewing the status dropout rates of students of different genders and ethnicities.
Factors Contributing to the Issue
The bulk of the research that focused on the problem of school dropouts explored three major types of factors. Thus, identifying students who would be impacted by the issue directly relates to such factors. The first area is concerned with the individual characteristics of students and their immediate environments, such as family circumstances. For instance, in their research, Videnović and Lazarević (2017), both individual and family-related factors play significant roles in the tendency of students to leave school without finishing a year of studies. The main categories that contributed to dropping out included underage pregnancy, assuming the role of a parent within a family, problematic behaviors, as well as weak motivation for student learning (Videnović & Lazarević, 2017). Notably, when parents were asked about the issue, they predominantly blamed their children for having bad character traits that cannot be changed (Videnović & Lazarević, 2017). In addition, the inability of the school staff to help families overcome the challenges encourages parents’ beliefs in the inadequacy of their children.
The second area that helps identify students who are likely to be affected by the issue is concerned with school factors. Such factors may range from the instructional programs implemented at schools to the expectations of students’ achievement. Simic and Krstic (2017) identified several distinctive school factors that would increase the likelihood of students dropping out. They include the low quality of teaching, especially in terms of lesson individualization, and the absence of both learning and educational support. Besides, the researchers suggested that negative student-teacher relationships were also highly relevant when considering school-related factors affecting dropout rates (Simic & Krstic, 2017). However, school influences have not been covered extensively and need to be studied further.
Outside factors that do not include school and family circumstances should also be considered in the examination of the issue at hand. Ilić, Lazarević, and Simić (2017) found that the negative aspects of the social environment in the country are of high importance when it comes to defining the possibility of students dropping out of school. Students at risk of leaving school usually socialize with individuals prone to risky behaviors and tend to live in poor communities. These findings point to the importance of introducing supportive and nurturing relationships among microsystems within individuals’ environments to establish sustainability and ultimately lasting effects. Therefore, to identify students who have a higher likelihood of dropping out of school, it is important to consider their individual and family factors and the quality of school programs being offered to them, as well as outside characteristics concerned with low socioeconomic status.
After recognizing the contributing factors that enable students to drop out of school, a prevention activity may be implemented. Because the factors concern different areas of individuals’ lives, the activities should be multidimensional. On the part of families, it is essential to foster transparent communication with students, talk about the career realities, and be highly supportive. On the part of schools, it is essential to facilitate mentoring and tutoring programs as well as out-of-school programs. In addition, it is imperative that schools lower the prices of education as a means of a family support mechanism that would help reduce the financial strain. On the part of policymakers and social workers, it is recommended to conduct regular community assessments to identify low-income and vulnerable families in which children are involved in gangs or exhibit poor behaviors.
An Intervention Program
An intervention program that may help reduce the rates of school dropouts can include classroom coaches. An example of this is a program implemented by the Austin Independent School District in Texas intended to build and improve classroom communities. The program was carried out by recruiting volunteers to offer career coaching, college advisory efforts, as well as life coaching to foster one-to-one connections between students and adults. Such a model has been shown to help reduce school dropouts, as found by Hinojosa and Maxwell (2017). The study revealed that students were highly influenced by the supportive role of mentors, crediting them for helping mold professional philosophy (Hinojosa & Maxwell, 2017). Such an intervention enables individuals to learn from the example of successful mentors who can offer a perspective of their personal experiences.
School-Wide Implications and Action Plan for Teachers
When it comes to school-associated implications of dropout, educational facilities may struggle with developing appropriate strategies that would allow teachers to be effective contributors to preventing large numbers of students from dropping out. An action plan for teachers is multidimensional and considers several action steps according to formative evaluation methods and measures. Within the action plan, the initial step is to provide regular tutorials and supplemental workshops throughout the school year to increase the number of students that experience success in ‘catching up’ academically. The second step is concerned with the provision of additional academic support with the help of summer school programs, which can range from early intervention in reading programs or bilingual summer school. Such activities are necessary to increase the number of students obtaining the needed credits and raise their preparedness to be successful during their future academic years. Another essential step is concerned with providing students and their families with the necessary support services. The comprehensive range of services offered to students and their families should be concerned with dealing with issues that relate to attendance, low achievement, and unfavorable behaviors. The strategy is evaluated by measuring the number of students who experience success and those that stay at school due to the increased access to supportive services.
Dropping out of school may present some legal issues for the individuals who leave. It is important to state that in the United States, every state has its own laws concerning compulsory education. Students are usually expected to begin school at a particular age and continue their attendance until graduation from high school or reaching a certain age. Almost all US states have exceptions that allow students to drop out of school at an earlier age if they meet specific conditions, such as getting the consent of parents and the obligation to participate in exit meetings. Additionally, laws of mandatory education usually do not apply to students who have physical or mental conditions that make it impractical or complicated for them to attend school. However, if an individual stops attending school when they are still under the coverage of their state’s compulsory education laws, they will be considered a truant. The legal sanctions for truancy range from one state to another and can include the loss of driving privileges. In some instances, there is a risk of school dropouts getting caught in the juvenile justice system, with the parents of dropouts possibly being subjected to fines and criminal charges. Therefore, there are legal challenges associated with students dropping out, which is the reason for the formulation of the ASCA Ethical Standards for School Counselors that define ethical behaviors necessary for the maintenance of high standards (American School Counselor Association, 2016). According to the established standards, counselors have the responsibility to support student development, maintain confidentiality, facilitate comprehensive data-informed programs, and help to formulate academic, career, and social plans for the future.
Final Insights Discussion
To summarize, the issue of school dropouts is both challenging and multidimensional as it requires systematic efforts on the part of students, teachers, families, as well as policymakers. The issue with students leaving school is that learners miss out on valuable social and educational opportunities that can help them become more prepared for adult life in the future. There is an increased need to create environments in which the academic and emotional needs of students are met to help them get involved in the learning process and find the academic niches in which they would succeed. Because there is a variety of factors causing students to leave school, the proposed solutions do not imply a ‘one size fits all approach; instead, it is important to use the available resources and adjust them to each situation separately. The opportunities for future research on reducing the rates of school dropouts are vast and can be specific to different academic, cultural, and socioeconomic contexts. Such research is necessary because the current strategies have not been effective enough in solving the problem and boosting learners’ accomplishments.
American School Counselor Association. (2016). ASCA ethical standards for school counselors. Web.
Hinojosa, J., & Maxwell, G. (2017). Can a high school coach make an impact mentoring high school students? Research in Higher Education Journal, 34, 1-10.
Ilić, I., Lazarević, L., & Simić, N. (2017). Social factors outside of family and school related to student dropout. Psihološka Istraživanja, 20(1), 89-105.
National Center for Education Statistics. (2018). Dropout rates. Web.
Simic, N., & Krstic, K. (2017). School factors related to dropout from primary and secondary education in Serbia: A qualitative research. Psihološka Istraživanja, 20(1), 51-70.
Videnović, M., & Lazarević, L. (2017). Familial and individual reasons for student dropout: Schools’ perception. Psihološka Istraživanja, 20(1), 71-88.