Preventing school dropouts: How you can make a difference

The statistics on school dropouts in America is staggering — 19 percent of young adults have not graduated from high school or obtained an equivalency certificate.

Students who drop out of school give up education and skills that would not only be financially beneficial over their lifetime, but benefit the community as well. How can we encourage them to stay in school?

Education is the key to our children’s future, and the future of our country. The United States continues to fall behind on technology and innovation, two areas that require an educated pool of workers. Encouraging students to stay in school may be one of the most important things we as adults can do. Our next generation of educated and skilled workers may be the key to a bright economic future.

School matters

The level of education a young person attains is one of the most important factors in determining future income stability and quality of life. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, full-time workers between the ages of 16 and 24 with a bachelor’s degree or higher earned 45 percent more than their peers who did not complete high school.

Young adults with no high school diploma or equivalency exam are far more likely to spend time in prison. Higher levels of education means that a young adult is less likely to live in poverty. The percentage of young adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher living in poverty was 14 percent, compared to those who had completed high school (24 percent) and those without a high school diploma (31 percent).

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Why do students drop out?

There are various reasons why a student may decide to drop out of school. Family dynamics play an important role in determining whether or not a child completes high school. The level of parental involvement in monitoring schoolwork and teacher-parent communications is important, as well as the education level of the parents and their employment status. Students who have had a sibling drop out of school are more likely to do the same. Dropouts also cite boring classes, falling too far behind to catch up, needing to seek employment or helping a family member.

Dr. Cletus Bulach is an educational consultant with over 40 years of experience in education and author of the book Creating a Culture for High Performing Schools: A Comprehensive Approach to School Reform and Dropout Prevention. “The most common reason is 50 percent of kids go to school without a purpose in life,” he says. “They have no idea what they’re going to do.” Dr. Bulach advocates finding ways to give students some control over their learning, without giving up control in the classroom. Engaging students and encouraging them to pursue their interests might be the difference between dropping out and staying in school.

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Support at home

Providing the support that children need to feel motivated, engaged and invested in their schooling starts at home. The foundation for a successful educational experience in high school may be traced back in the elementary school years.

“In any good family, openness and trust are the building stones for the relationship between kids and parents,” says Dr. Bulach. “Role models are critical, and the parents are role models.” Being available for help with homework, making a priority of school attendance and communicating with school personnel shows your child that their schooling is important.

To keep kids from dropping out of school, parents and educators need to encourage them with goals and feedback. How can you help an at-risk teen in your life?

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