Failure is not an Option

By Anthony Hubbard.

There are serious repercussions when one is not able to graduate from high school. Dropouts will find it difficult to find a stable job as most companies will require for highly-skilled employees. As such, they will likely earn less than their counterparts who were able to finish their high school education. They are more prone to figure in early pregnancy, drug abuse cases, and criminal acts. However, despite the efforts to study the dropout problems, it has continued to escalate in the past 30 years.

There is, generally, a high percentage of high school students who drop out of school each year. However, certain groups of students have exhibited higher dropout rates. For instance, males have higher dropout rates than females. And each year, the dropout rates accumulate to staggering levels. Students who are able to graduate on time are considerably low; and it is a glaring trend that in the case of American Indian, Black and Hispanic students, about only half are able to graduate by the end of the four-year period.

Why Students Drop Out of School

There are certainly a lot of reasons why students drop out of school. It is important to identify such reasons in order to help educators and policymakers develop sound drop-out prevention strategies and intervention programs that will minimize the dropout rates.

Based on studies, students are unable to finish their school education mainly because of two closely-related factors: external and education-related.

External Factors

Students are influenced by family and social conditions that, sometimes, serve as the root of their problems in school. Students who are likely to dropout from school are those:

  • from low socioeconomic background
  • of color (either Hispanic, Native American, or African American)
  • with frequent records of absences
  • with poor academic achievement
  • who get pregnant early
  • who has a primary language other than English
  • who are influenced by gang
  • who are working and studying at the same time
  • who lack community and family support

Education-related factors

The educational institution, itself, significantly contributes to the high dropout rates. Its grading policies, types of teaching instructions, school environment, adult-student relationship, and poor drop-out prevention strategies are determinants of dropout rates. The National Dropout Prevention Center has summarized school-related factors as follows:

  • disparate discipline system
  • inadequate counseling
  • conflicting cultures in the home and school
  • negative school environment
  • non-flexibility of teaching styles
  • disregard for student’s learning styles and capabilities
  • low expectations
  • language barrier

What are “Dropout Factories”?

This term pertains to high schools that have a graduation rate of 60% or less. Although they only make up 12% of the national total, these schools account for contributing 50% to the nation’s total dropouts and around 65% of ethnic minority dropouts. These schools are located in poverty-stricken areas that experience unemployment problems, rampant crimes, and ill health. Students are comprised disproportionately of children of color.

Potential Strategies for Preventing Dropouts

To address the escalating dropout rates, certain drop-out prevention strategies have to be in place to help students who may be at risk of dropping out especially those for students of color. There are three comprehensive strategies that are worth exploring.

  1. Improvement of the school, its system, and policies
  2. Enhancing the school environment to increase the students’ sense of belonging
  3. Encourage student engagement by coming up with a well-planned curriculum and a more effective mode of teaching

Improvement of the schools as a dropout prevention strategy

Reducing dropouts and improving the graduation rates would entail resolute efforts to have a systematic planning even if it means changing some of the existing school programs or coming up with new ones. Since there is no single solution that can resolve the different and complex problems of students, there should also be flexibility in the programs that would allow appropriate response to each individual’s needs and circumstances. In most cases, schools will have to be ready to modify certain areas like personal engagement with students, educational policies, and instructional methods.

Enhancing the school environment

Disengagement from school is one of the biggest threats a student could face; it, therefore, becomes imperative to enhance student connection with schools and its officials in order to reduce dropout rates. It’s important for schools to realize that one of the best drop-out prevention strategies it can implement is to look after not only the academic needs of its students but their social needs as well. This can be achieved by promoting mutual respect between faculty members and students through constant interactions. In addition, teachers should exhibit genuine concern and support for their students; at the same time, their high expectations for academic excellence should be clearly aligned to their students. Students of color often get alienated by the lack of receptive and welcoming environment. When schools address this concern, the students gain more confidence and sense of belonging, such that they become more responsible members of the school community. With the right guidance, this sense of responsibility would automatically extend to their home

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Encourage student engagement through better modes of teaching and well-planned curriculum

Students of color are more likely to experience more difficulties in transitioning to adulthood because of so many complex factors. School leaders and teachers must be flexible enough to understand the unique behaviors of each student and engage them accordingly. To improve learning and teaching, a strong emphasis should be given on instruction style, curriculum, and assessment methods for low performing schools:

  •  Use teaching methods that are tailored to prepare all students for lifelong learning and achievement of excellent standards
  • Equip the school with teachers that are capable of teaching young adolescents
  • Organize activities that promote and encourage relationships for learning; create a caring community and an environment conducive for intellectual development
  • Adapt a democratic school governance
  • Promote a safe and healthy school environment to develop academically excellent students and ethical citizens
  • Encourage involvement of parents and communities in the learning experience of the students

Schools must strengthen drop-out prevention strategies and stand on its ground that failure is not an option when it comes to all its students regardless of social status and ethnic race. Schools must be ready to change its traditional structure and operations to accommodate better personalization of services. If possible, smaller units must be created to accommodate individual needs of the students. The curriculum and instruction must be relevant to the students so they can fully understand and apply what they learn. Integration of technology and modern methods of instruction could help a lot. Lastly, professional growth of the educators and support staff should also be given importance. This way, they can assume better leadership roles and become better role models for their students. Educational institution who will take the time to implement these reforms can, little by little, address the perennial problem of having a large number of students leaving the school without graduating.