Analysts agree that the rate of high school dropout in the United States has reached catastrophic levels. Credible estimates claim that more than a third of all students that join high school are likely to abandon school before completion. A look at the past decades indicates that this has been a growing trend and is yet to be arrested appropriately. This is a problem that has not been captured in the public glare due to scarcity if data. This paper will provide the available statistics on the rate of high school dropouts; provide an analysis of the possible causes and remedies.
Different publications contain valid rates of dropouts; this is because of the existing differences in the definition of a dropout. There are those that graduate after completing the high school syllabus, others that graduate after completing an equivalency test of the same and those that graduate after passing other states based tests. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) compiles its data using either the event rates, status rates or the cohert rates.
Events rates refer to the number of students that drop out of school annually while the status rate takes into account the total number of students that have cumulatively dropped out of school as a proportion of the total population. (National Institute on the Education of At Risks Students, 2006) Indicative reports have it that the rate of school dropout from the 1970s to the 1990s recorded a steady decline; however the rates have stabilized from the 90s to date recording an insignificant improvement.
A look at the 1999 and the 2000 reports indicate that 5% of all students that had joined high school in the respective years dropped out within a year. This is in according to the available education department’s event dropout rates. The status dropout rates for 2000 indicate that “some 3. 8 million young adults were not enrolled in a high school program and had not completed high school. ” (National Center for Education Statistics). Other available statistics on the dropout rates focus on the differences between gender and the racial groups.
They have indicated that 5. 8% of male students are more likely to dropout compared to whose dropout rate is 4. 3%. The gender disparities in the dropout rate are witnessed across all the ethnic and racial groups with male students being the most affected. The dropout rate for the minority groups has remained higher than that of white Americans. The Latinos lead the group of the minorities with a rate of 27. 5%; African Americans have 13. 6% while the whites have a dropout rate of 7. 9%.
This is according to the 1993 survey although these rates have remained fairly constant since then. (National Institute on the Education of At Risk Students, 1996) Having looked at the existing statistics, it is important to look at the reasons behind these statistics. There exists immense research on the causes of high school dropouts but it is important to point out that they focus on a variety of issues depending on the discipline. The ethnographic studies for example may focus on the issues of minorities and the social causes of their dropout.
Attempts therefore to establish the specific factors are impeded by the existence of “a large variety of factors that predict or influence dropout behaviors, ranging from family background to school characteristics. ” (Richard, 2002, 120) Scholars however have observed that students drop out of schools either after being ‘pushed out’ by the school environment or after being ‘pulled away’ by factors beyond the school curriculum. (Jay W. , 1999). A survey conducted on the various reasons behind the high school drop out rates revolve around vague reasons such boring classes and hard exams.
These though are the pointer towards the major factors that contribute towards high school dropout rates. The causes range from academic challenges, economic, social and personal reasons One of the major ‘push out’ cause of dropout of high school can be traced to the various schools’ requirements to undertake an exit exam as the precondition for graduation. A look at the United States reveals that most states have put forth a requirement for a standardized test to mark the graduation of students from high school.
Exit exams were adopted to enable states to standardize their tests and upgrade their diplomas. Where the merits of these exams have been widely noted, criticism has been leveled against them alleging that they exert too much pressure on the high school students. The basic purpose of exit exams is to ensure that the quality of the diploma is maintained, today however it is being seen as pushing students out of school, “these critics rely upon the push-out-myth- the idea that requiring students to pass exit exams forces students to drop out of high school. ” (Jay P. , 2006, 127).
The conclusion that stringent exam requirement may push students out of school has been reached after examining performance records and transcripts belonging to those that have dropped out. Studies have pointed out a streak of dismal performance by most of them indicating a sense of hopelessness on the drop outs. Some students have blamed the dismal performance on the lack of motivation by their teachers. Another possible cause of school dropout is peer influence. Peers are an important component to the development of an individual and also as socialization agents.
It has been established that the influence of the family to the life of adolescents is fast waning and its place taken over by peers. The issue of how peers influence school drop out rate is broad and has been found to be an important factor. School dropouts have claimed to have been influenced by their peers to quit schools especially for those that had non schooling friends. This is so as peer influence has been found to either be a source of motivation or discouragement. This has been problematic as most of these have plunged into the crime world led by their peers.
Working students also find it hard to cope with both tasks and most have even been found to give up education in the belief that they will resume later. Unsupportive parents have also been known to lead their children out of schools due to lack of moral support. Just like there is no single cause behind the high rates of school dropouts, there is no single remedy for the problem. It requires a multifaceted approach that incorporates both students and the teachers. It has been found that most students drop out of schools to escape the taxing nature of academics and exams.
While it is not prudent to change the existing exams, it would be appropriate to put measures to ensure that the tests would not be an excuse to drive students out of school. As Marvin (2003, 215) has pointed out, “states should look for more ways to identify students at risk and consider instituting or adapting existing programs to support students before they drop out. ” The best approach hence would be to incorporate a support program to help students cope with the rising challenges.
This should include providing extra school tutoring and retake programs for students that perform dismally in the first attempts. This should also include introducing changes to the academic programs to ensure that they are more responsive and relevant to the student lives. The government also should roll out programs that aim towards sensitizing students on the need to stay in school. A number of factors that contribute to high rates of school dropout are social-psychological meaning that they can be eradicated through creation of awareness and general counseling.
It is also important to involve students in the process of policy making to ensure that their expectations and views are incorporated and hence make them feel that they have a bigger stake in the school programs. Indeed there much has to be done to reduce the number of students that fail to complete their high school. The dropout rates indicated above are worrisome. More also needs to be done to bridge the dropout disparities across the racial groups. Students should be sensitized on the dangers of dropping out of schools especially as they are exposing themselves to the risks of unemployment as well as crime.
Courtney from Study Moose
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