The Dropout's Perspective on Leaving School
Researchers and theorists have studied and written about the reasons why students drop out of high school, what happens to these dropouts, and what the future holds for them. But what do the dropouts themselves have to say about their decision to drop out? How do they see their lives after dropping out? What advice would they offer high school students today who are thinking of dropping out?
Reasons for Dropping Out
What Dropouts Say. Asked why they decided to leave high school, dropouts from the past thirty years consistently cited three major reasons (Curley, Sawyer, and Savitsky, 1971; "High School," 1984; "High School," 1977; Kumar and Bergstrand, 1979; "Mother," 1982; Norris, Wheeler, and Finley, 1980; Peng and Takai, 1983; Stetler, 1959):
- A dislike of school and a view that school is boring and not relevant to their needs.
- Low academic achievement, poor grades, or academic failure.
- A need for money and a desire to work full-time.
Many female dropouts also cited pregnancy or marriage as reasons for dropping out. These issues, however, will not be addressed in this digest.
What Researchers Say. Studies of high school dropouts conducted over the past thirty years in several states and nationwide have identified these same three basic reasons for dropping out (see references cited above):
- Dislike of School. Consistent with the dropouts' reported dislike of and boredom with school, researchers have found a pattern of absenteeism among dropouts when they were still in school and a low rate of participation in extracurricular activities.
- Low Academic Achievement. Researchers have found that lowered performance in either reading or mathematics tended to increase the likelihood that a student would leave school. Data suggest that failure often begins in elementary school.
- Desire to Work. High school dropouts tend to belong to families of low socioeconomic status ("Mother," 1982; Peng and Takai, 1983). In support of this finding, dropouts themselves report that they left school planning to work full-time.
Reprinted with the permission of the Education Resources Information Center.
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