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Causes of High School Dropouts

By Molly James

Students choose to leave high school for a variety of reasons,

but the decision to do so has serious long-term consequences.
According to Solutions for America, those without high school
diplomas face limited job opportunities and a lowered earning
potential. While the reasons for dropping out of school are
varied, solutions exist to help young people stay focused on
their high school education.
Risk Factors and Solutions
While each student who has made the decision to leave school has an individual story and
reasons, there are several common risk factors.

Academic Failure
Struggling in school on a daily basis is the biggest reason most students choose to drop out of
high school. For example, according to Anne E. Casey Foundation by America's Promise,
children who are not reading proficiently by fourth grade are four times more likely to quit high
school than their peers.

Early intervention is crucial in keeping kids engaged, successful, and in school. Parents, teachers
and administrators should be on the lookout for students who are struggling with core courses,
especially in the elementary years. In 2007, Louisiana launched a program to monitor low-
performing students, and provide early intervention services, which significantly reduced drop
out rates.

Students must attend school consistently. According to a study done by Attendance Works,
students who had dropped out of school had a chronic history of absenteeism. Nearly 88% of
students who had dropped out had missed at least 20 days of school in a given year, and an
alarming three out of every four drop outs had missed more than 40 days in a year.

Schools must carefully monitor attendance, and notify parents immediately if students are
missing school on a regular basis. Aggressive persistence, teacher support, and engaging parents
could be the key to making sure students show up for school and stay there.

Often, students disengage from learning, feeling that their teachers do not care for the course
material or understand how to connect it to real life. Students who are not involved with their
school have a high chance of dropping out. According to a University of Florida study, 90% of
students who engage in extra-curricular activities, stay in school.

High schools need to seek a variety of activities to help engage all students. In addition, schools,
teachers and administrators need to seek to create a community atmosphere to help students feel
as if they belong. Parents can help by encouraging students to get involved in activities and
develop talents and outside interests besides academics.

Managing a healthy pregnancy while staying in school is extremely difficult. Students who are
pregnant need extensive support to remain in school; according to the CDC, 50% of pregnant
students drop out of high school due to lack of financial and emotional support.

Some ideas to help pregnant students include alternative high school options, such as part-day or
online courses. High school counselors can be of great assistance in preventing pregnant students
from dropping out of high school. In addition, there are state and local programs such as Cal-
Safe in California, a program that provides essential resources to pregnant and parent-students.

Financial Difficulties
According to the Gates Foundation, 32% of students leave school to provide for their families
financially, and drop out of high school to find employment.

Creative options exist for students who must earn money while in school, including work-study
programs (students can earn credit for working part-time jobs) and online programs for students
to take classes when they aren't at work. In addition, families may be eligible for financial
resources. Communication with school administrators on the impact of financial difficulties can
provide a range of options that will assist the family and keep the student in school.

The Tough Choice: Staying In School

While dropping out of high school may seem like the only choice for struggling students, many
excellent options are available. Many factors that cause students to drop out of high school are
preventable or manageable if administrators, teachers and parents work together to provide early
intervention and support. The effects of dropping out are felt for a lifetime, both financially and
emotionally. The decision to stay in school can be difficult, but is well worth it.