There is a high school dropout crisis far beyond the imagination of most Americans, concentrated in urban schools and relegating many thousands of minority children to a life of failure. We urgently need to address this problem as a nation. Our goal ... is to make the public aware of this issue and make improving high school graduation rates a central part of national education reform. We believe the first step must entail highlighting the severe racial disparities in high school graduation rates that exist at the school and district levels.
Gary Orfield (2004)
Dropouts in America:
Confronting the Graduation Rate Crisis
Every year, across the country, a dangerously high percentage of students – disproportionately poor and minority – disappear from the educational pipeline before graduating from high school. Nationally, only about 68% of all students who enter 9th grade will graduate "on time" with regular diplomas in 12th grade. While the graduation rate for white students is 75%, only approximately half of Black, Latino, and Native American students earn regular diplomas alongside their classmates. Graduation rates are even lower for Black, Latino and Native American males. Yet, because of misleading and inaccurate reporting of dropout and graduation rates, the public remains largely unaware of this educational and civil rights crisis.
The Civil Rights Project, UCLA, March 24, 2005
From: Confronting the Graduation Rate Crisis in California
Young adults who leave school short of high school graduation face many potential hardships and society pays a significant price. As the recent report from the Harvard Civil Rights Project states: "When high numbers of youth leave school ill-prepared to contribute to our labor force and to civic life, our economy and our democracy suffer. Life opportunities for these youth and for their offspring are dramatically curtailed. According to Russell Rumberger, Professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara, the 66,657 students who were reported as dropouts from the California public schools in the 2002-03 will cost the state $14 billion in lost wages. These costs rise significantly when one considers that the actual number of students who leave school without diplomas is much higher than the estimates provided by the state. Since the greatest economic benefits of earning a high school diploma as are realized in the next generation, the most significant loss is to their – and our – future."
For some quick facts on the impact of the dropout problem, see
What Does the Literature on Dropouts Tell Us to do About the Problem?
- Be proactive in preventing the problem. See the
- Dropout "At Risk" Checklist in the Center's intro packet on dropouts https://smhp.psych.ucla.edu/pdfdocs/DropoutPrev/dropout.pdf
Available research suggests that being held back is the single strongest predictor of dropping out and that its effect is consistent for both early and late dropouts. School factors can account for approximately two thirds of the differences in mean school dropout rates.
- For prevention to be effective, schools must engage all students in learning, and they must focus specifically on the problem of re-engaging students who have become disengaged from classroom learning. See:
- Re-engaging Students in Learning (Quick Training Aid)
- Re-engaging Students in Learning at School (newsletter article)
- Enhancing Classroom Approaches for Addressing Barriers to Learning: Classroom-Focused Enabling (Continuing Education Modules)
- The literature points to the need to provide one-on-one intensive attention to at-risk students, who often must be convinced that they are competent and can be successful in school. Children at-risk need to be identified at a young age (as early as preschool) so that early sustained intervention can be applied. See:
- Youth in Transition
This long-term study of school dropouts provides many insights about the problem and what needs to be done. The document reports that being held back one grade increases the risk of dropping out later by 40 percent to 50 percent, two grades by 90 percent. However, there are some strategies that can be used as alternatives to retention.
- Enhance the professional development of teachers to ensure they have the knowledge and skills to teach a wider range of students to meet standards
- Redesign school structures to support more intensive learning
- Provide students the support and services they need in order to succeed when they are needed
- Use classroom assessments that better inform teaching.
Retention efforts for junior high and high school students use out-of-school efforts such as tutoring, mentoring, service learning, career advising, and arranging for older students (who might otherwise drop-out) to work with younger ones. Service learning, for example, is a teaching methodology, which integrates community service into the academic curriculum. Using service-learning, elementary school students tutor younger students, and both improve their mastery of essential literacy skills. Investigators have found that when rigorous study in academic disciplines is linked to serious work on real needs, students' motivation to learn increases. When teachers are rigorous about partnering with young people to design and carry out service-learning projects that are tied to curricular objectives and standards, they are likely to benefit in the following ways: Academic and intellectual benefits, Civic and ethical benefits, and social and personal benefits.
- Educational alternative programs provide a non-traditional approach to curriculum by utilizing alternative teaching strategies. Programs focus upon the needs and interests of students by offering positive school experiences, which are geared for achievement, enhancement of positive self-concept, motivation, reduction of truancy, reduction of disruptive behavior, and reduction of teenage pregnancy.
The National Dropout Prevention Center/Network has identified 15 effective strategies that have the most positive impact on the dropout rate. These strategies have been implemented successfully at all education levels and environments throughout the nation.
For more information, see: http://www.dropoutprevention.org/effstrat/effstrat.htm
- School and Community Perspective
- Systemic Renewal
- School-Community Collaboration
- Safe Learning Environments
- Early Interventions
- Family Engagement
- Early Childhood Education
- Early Literacy Development
- Basic Core Strategies
- Alternative Schooling
- After-School Opportunities
- Making the Most of Instruction
- Professional Development
- Active Learning
- Educational Technology
- Individualized Instruction
- Career and Technical Education (CTE)
See the specially developed Center Introductory Packet entitled:
- Dropout Prevention
Use the Center's Online Clearinghouse Quick Find on Dropout Prevention :
(It contains links to key references, empirically supported programs, and centers specializing in the topic and related topics.)
Other Quick Finds that may be helpful:
>>Alternative Schools and Alternative Education
>>Barriers to Learning
>>Environments that Support Learning
>>Learning Supports: Students to Succeed
>>Parent/Home Involvement in Schools
>>Parenting Skills and Parenting Education
>>Prevention for Students "At Risk"
Among the links you will find on various of the above Quick Finds are:
- >>Dropout Rates in the United States: 2001 at http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2005046
>>Keeping Kids in Schools from the American School Board Journal – http://www.asbj.com/2002/12/1202research.html
>>The Real Truth about Low Graduation Rates, An Evidence-Based Commentary – http://www.urban.org/url.cfm?ID=411050
A Few Websites Dealing Directly with Dropout Prevention
http://www.dropoutprevention.org/ - National Dropout Prevention Centers
http://www.tpronline.org/ – The Prevention Researcher
http://www.focusas.com/Dropouts.html - Focus Adolescent Services: Youth Who Drop Out
http://www.ed.gov/programs/dropout/dropoutprogram.html – School Dropout Prevention Program
http://nces.ed.gov/ccd/pub_dropouts.asp– NCES: Public High School Dropouts and Completers from the Common Core of Data
http://www.truancyprevention.org/ – National Center for School Engagement
http://www.tutorsforkids.org/ – Tutors for Kids
http://www.youthbuild.org/ – Youth Build USA
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