The Huffington Post recently ran an article entitled, "America's School Dropout Epidemic By The Numbers" about America's dropout problem. I would like to add my opinions about why children drop out of school. I am a professional educator who served as a classroom teacher, school counselor and school administrator in the New York City school system for over 33 years. I believe that there are five major reasons why children leave school:
1. The students themselves
They make wrong decisions. They get involved with gangs, drugs/alcohol, get pregnant and commit crimes. Many have a poor school attitude and are frequently bored by school. They are disconnected to their families, school and life. They do not see the reasons they need to go to school. They are not involved in school activities and lack self-esteem. Some have been promoted lacking skills needed for promotion. Some have undergone major illnesses and have missed too many days of school and have been informed that they will be held back. Because of many of the conditions listed above, they have been suspended and have fallen behind in their work and see little purpose of returning to school.
2. The family they come from
There is often a clash between the family values and those of the school. Frequently, their parents have dropped out of school themselves. The students come from families from low socio-economic backgrounds, where there are many other children. Older children often have to go to work in order to supply the family with much-needed funds for basic family needs or need to stay home to take care of younger siblings so that their parents can work. Many children come from non-English speaking homes with high mobility. Single parent homes have become the norm in the United States. Many children are products of divorce, separation or, sometimes, family violence. hey are not being raised by parents, but rather by aunts, uncles and grandparents. Families are not meeting some children's basic needs of food, clothing and shelter.
3. The community they come from
Many children live on the wrong side of the tracks in places where education is not valued, where drugs, gangs and violence abound. And where schools are low-performing, they often lack community and health support.
4. The schools they attend
The schools are toxic to student learning, students, parents and staff. Students are suspended for minor infractions (such as "talking back to the teacher"), or placed in "remedial classes." The schools have a culture of low expectations. They lack adequate guidance counseling. The curriculum is not relevant to the needs of the students being taught. Passive instructional strategies are being used without regard to individual student learning styles.Teachers are not trained in the latest teaching/learning/technology techniques. Funding is based on property values so that low-income neighborhoods receive less funding than wealthy neighborhoods. Because some states pass budgets in a less than timely matter, teachers are not hired in time producing over-sized classrooms.
5. The teachers they have
The least-experienced, least classroom-trained teachers are often assigned to the most difficult schools. They enter the field with the expectation that they have been adequately prepared by the schools of education with the skills they need and they haven't received. (See Arthur Levine, "Educating School Teachers") They are leaving the field faster than colleges can prepare them. The teacher "dropout rate" is higher than the student dropout rate. Forty-six percent of teachers leave the field within five years. When asked why they leave, a majority state that they haven't been properly prepared, have had increased demands placed on them because of high stakes testing and are not getting adequate support from their supervisors in dealing with classroom discipline.
Like all generalities, there are exceptions to the information provided above. But, by and large, the statistics bear them out.