Education Week states that the national high school graduation rate stands at 68.8 percent. Recruitment in the army and admission to most colleges require a high school diploma. High school completion varies across states, with the highest dropout rates reported in the South, while Northeast and Midwestern states have the highest graduation rates. Students fail to complete high school due to family and individual factors.
Poor Academic Performance
According to a report by Educational Testing Service (ETS), the reasons for students dropping out of high school begin before high school. Research shows that performance plays a critical role in dropping out of high school. For example, students who fail in core subjects, such as mathematics and English in eighth grade, are more likely to drop out of school. Also, a student who fails the majority of courses only earns a few credits and may eventually drop out of school. According to NHSC, most of these students drop out of school, with only 10 to 15 percent of students who repeat ninth grade graduating from high school.
Just like other social problems, students from poor economic backgrounds and minorities tend to drop out more regularly from high school. According to the Pew Partnership, completion rates among Asian and white students’ stands at 77 and 75 percent respectively, higher than the national average. However, among the American-Indian, African American and Hispanic students, the percentage is about 50 percent. Most students from minority ethnicities attend underfunded and racially segregated schools that lack the right tools to address their educational challenges, according to a report by Johns Hopkins University. In the majority of these high schools, it is not uncommon to find that most students are older and have repeated grades, necessitating special intensive education services, such as summer classes to help them pass. However, due to unavailability of resources in these high-poverty schools, students may continue failing because they do not get additional help and may eventually opt to quit school.
Behavior and discipline problems are not uncommon in American schools. Some of them include using obscene language in class, disrespecting teachers, bullying other students, starting fights and constant lateness. To maintain a safe learning environment, schools punish students with disciplinary problems through detention, suspension or expulsion. According to NCSET, students with disruptive behavior are more likely to drop out because they cannot comply with the zero tolerance policies common in most schools. Such students cannot withstand the strict disciplinary practices in the school and may eventually leave.
Students who constantly miss school may eventually drop out. According to ETS, a student who misses 80 percent of eighth grade classes has a 75 percent chance of dropping out. In most cases, students with low attendance rates fall behind their peers in classroom coursework. Such students may contribute less in the classroom and feel detached from their peers and teachers. As a result, they may drop out from school because they feel inadequate to compete with other students.
- ETS: Dropping Out of High School: Prevalence, Risk Factors, and Remediation Strategies
- Johns Hopkins University: The Graduation Rate Crisis We Know and What Can be Done About It Education Week Commentary, July 12, 2006
- National Council of Teachers of English: Resolution on Increasing Secondary School Graduation Rates
- National High School Center: The First Year Of High School: A Quick Stats Fact Sheet
- Education Week: U.S. Graduation Rate Continues Decline
- Pew Partnership: The School Dropout Crisis
- National Center on Secondary Education and Transition: Who Drops Out of School?
Maria OCadiz has been writing professionally since 1982, most recently publishing for various websites on topics like health and wellness, and education. She holds a Master of Arts in Education. She is a former university professor, curriculum facilitator and teacher.