Why Kids Drop out of High School and How to Prevent It

The number of students who drop out of high school has fallen significantly since 1990. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), “the status dropout rate decreased from 12.1 percent in 1990 to 6.5 percent in 2014.” Despite this improvement, many of today’s young people still face troubles that put them at risk. Without completing high school, these students will have a harder time succeeding in today’s workforce.

Common Reasons Students Drop out of High School

Students list many reasons for dropping out of high school. More than 27 percent say that they leave school because they are failing too many classes. Nearly 26 percent report boredom as a contributing cause. About 26 percent also say that they dropped out to become caregivers, and more than 20 percent say that school simply wasn’t relevant to their lives.

Other common reasons:

  • Needing to make money to support their families
  • Getting held back
  • Using drugs
  • Becoming pregnant
  • Joining gangs

Only a small percentage say that they drop out because of school environments, ineffective teachers, residential instability, mental health issues, or getting kicked out of school.

Researchers have connected many of these factors to socioeconomic status. Students from low-income areas are 2.4 times more likely to drop out of school than those from middle-income neighborhoods. When students need to worry about necessities like food, shelter, and safety, they cannot expend energy on school.

Parents and teachers should look for warning signs. Given the reasons students report for dropping out, adults should look for signs such as:

  • Failing grades
  • Drug use
  • Sexual promiscuity
  • Gang activity
  • Ailing family members who require assistance

Why High School Degrees Matter

Earning a high school diploma has become essential to the financial success of people living in the United States. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that high school graduates earn a median $678 per week. Workers without high school diplomas, however, earn a median $493 per week. Over one year, a high school graduate can expect to earn about $9,617 more than someone who dropped out of school. After a decade of work, the high school graduate can expect to make nearly $100,000 more than someone who drops out of high school.

Students who drop out also face higher unemployment rates. In 2015, the national unemployment rate for high school graduates was 5.4 percent. High school dropouts faced an 8 percent unemployment rate.

How to Help High School Students Graduate

While individuals cannot control many of the factors that contribute to students dropping out of high school, they can do some things to help students succeed.

Since more than 27 percent of high school dropouts say that they were failing too many classes, it makes sense for parents and educators to give young people more opportunities to learn course materials and get better grades. This may involve after-school tutoring, finding a mentor in the community, or diagnosing learning disabilities that make academic success more challenging.

Parents can also contribute to student success simply by staying involved in education. Staying involved may include tracking grades, talking to teachers, attending extracurricular events, and making plans for what their children will do after graduation. Establishing academic expectations, such as going to college, can influence how students perceive their goals.

Ideally, dropout prevention starts during the early stages of a child’s education. In some cases, though, parents and educators do not notice that the student is at risk until he or she reaches high school. It’s important to make these students a priority instead of letting them slip through the cracks. Ignoring the problem only increases the chance that at-risk youth will not have the degrees they need to support themselves in adulthood.

If you think your child is at risk for dropping out of school, consider alternative school choices like online learning.  K12-powered virtual schools allow students to work at their own pace and receive the support they need to get back on track. And the flexibility of learning from home (or anywhere there is an internet connection) may be just what some students need to be motivated to continue their education and not drop out of high school. Visit K12.com for more information.

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