Why do kids drop out of school?
One of the most common features of those who fall into the characterization of juvenile delinquent is a failure to graduate from high school or more commonly termed – a drop out. In order to address the question of “why do kids drop out of school?” this essay will introduce three broad concepts that have been shown in the literature to be of critical importance in the relative risk of a child failing to graduate from high school. The three concepts are causes of school failures; relative graduation rates of different socioeconomic and ethnic communities and the problem of truancy.
Causes of school failures
A recurrent theme in the study of causes of school failure is students with poor academic performance (Siegel and Welsh, p 216). There are a number of factors that affect any individual student’s relative risk of poor academic performance one of these is learning disabilities (Mishel and Joydeep, 2006, p 26). Particularly affected by the challenges of having students with learning disabilities are schools with great scarcity of resources (Mishel and Joydeep, 2006, p 23). Class size has been described as having a large influence on the ability for students with learning disabilities to have appropriate intervention aide and for the educators to be able to maintain that student’s self-esteem and hope for successful high school graduation (Mishel and Joydeep, 2006, p 23).
Relative graduation rates
Certain student population sub groups are at increased risk of dropping out (Siegel and Welsh, p 217). Perhaps two of the most commonly identified groups are those of varying socioeconomic status (SES) and those whose first language is not English or English as a second language learners (ESL). Student ethnicity was shown to be more powerful a predictor of high school graduation rates that the background of ESL (Freeman and Fox (2005, p 25). Specific ethnic groups were at higher risk of dropping out of high school than others, for example Asian American ESL students’ high school graduation rate was not significantly different to white American English Native speaking students (Freeman and Fox, 2005, p 32). In contrast however graduation rates of Hispanic American ESL students’ high school graduation rates fell disappointingly low compared to White American non-ESL students (Freeman and Fox, 2005, p 32) with reports ranging form twenty seven percent (Mishel and Joydeep, 2006, p 73) to sixty-three percent (Mishel and Joydeep, 2006, p 74). Clearly studies that compare all ESL students with all non-ESL students for rates of high school graduation are going to lose the sensitivity of their data upon analysis to detect any difference. It is also important to note that the ethnicity factor crosses not only the study of high school graduation rates in ESL students but often these groups of students are also challenged by lower SES (Mishel and Joydeep, 2006, p 74).
Problems with truancy
It could be argued that school drop out is preceded by the warning signs of chronic truancy. Siegel and Welsh provide a detailed table that summarizes a number of factors that lead to truancy and offers some suggestions on how a families and schools may combat truancy (2004, p 218). The reported increase of using the legal system to address chronic truancy has increased from accounting for only twenty -six percent of cases in a juvenile court in 19989 to these cases representing over eighty – five percent of cases in 2003 (Siegel and Welsh, p 218). Family awareness of the importance of school attendance and characteristics of parental circumstances such as poverty, drug or alcohol abuse and their attitude toward education is a recurring theme associated with truancy (Siegel and Welsh, 2004, p 218). Challenges faced by schools such as limited resources and large class sizes may allow at risk students to miss the opportunity for the care and counseling that may keep them in school (Siegel and Welsh, 2004, p 218). Programs that may prove effective in combating truancy include those that incorporate parental, family education on the importance of school attendance (Siegel and Welsh, 2004, p 218). A system that introduces a contract in which the student, parents and school are parties where compliance with the contract is monitored by representatives of the juvenile court system have shown some success in facilitating high school graduation for students with histories of chronic truancy (Siegel and Welsh, 2004, p 218).
In summary it is clear that kids drop out of school for many different reasons. It is also evident that the monitoring of chronic truancy may provide an important early warning system to identify and provide specialized intervention to those students at immediate risk of dropping out.