High school can be difficult for any student and can become especially difficult for students with fewer advantages. In the face of these challenges, some students are presented with the option of dropping out of school, a decision that can make their difficulties even longer lasting. The average dropout can expect to earn $10,000 less per year than the average high school graduate, and more than $30,000 less per year than the average college graduate. According to a study by Northeastern University, high school dropouts are a staggering 63 times more likely to be incarcerated than non-dropouts.
It’s important to distinguish between correlation and causation, yet it’s easy to see how the decision to leave high school without graduating can have a direct negative influence on a person’s career options. Even low-paying jobs commonly require a high school diploma, and dropouts may find themselves with few legal career choices.
Of course, the decision to drop out of high school is rarely made on the spur of a moment. Typically, dropping out is the last stage of a long process of poor grades, missed school, and discipline issues. The decision to drop out is made gradually, often beginning at a very young age, as the student becomes increasingly disconnected from their education. When asked why they dropped out, students often say that their classes felt uninteresting or pointless, or that nobody in the school seemed to care about them. These same conditions can be found in any grade. Some students drop out in order to take a job or to have children.
The good news is that the dropout rate is slowly declining. In the 1990s, a little more than 10% of all students failed to graduate high school; the number has since dropped to 7%. Boys are more likely to drop out than girls.
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
What was high school like for you? Did you ever consider dropping out?
Do you think that dropping out is more the fault of the school or the student? Do you think dropouts would be more likely to graduate if they attended better schools?
How many high school dropouts do you know? What have their careers looked like since high school? How do they feel about their decision to leave school?
Graduating high school is crucial to a young person’s career prospects, and it will only become more so in the coming years. Therefore it’s very important that we do whatever we can to help young people succeed in school.