While the Department of Education touts research that American high schools have reached an 80 percent graduation rate, a new report out this week from America's Promise Alliance seeks to discover what happened to the remaining 20 percent.
America's Promise Alliance, a nonprofit founded by former Secretary of State Colin Powell, found that students who fail to finish high school generally face a range of challenges. After interviewing more than 200 Americans who left high school and analyzing more than 3,000 survey responses, researchers found that these students often grew up in "toxic environments," where they experienced traumatic events like violence in the home or at school. For example, 30 percent of the survey's respondents reported having been abused, 22 percent reported having been homeless and 18 percent reported having spent time in juvenile detention.
The report, titled "Don't Call Them Dropouts," noted that the term "dropout" rarely encapsulated the experience felt by many of the students they interviewed. Many of the interviewed students who left high school eventually re-enrolled and passed a GED high school equivalency exam.
Using information from the report, we have compiled graphs comparing the characteristics of those who left school at one point during their high school career, to the characteristics of typical students, who stay enrolled in high school until graduation. As shown below, those who left school were more likely to have been involved in illegal activity or to have faced an unstable home life.