Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Why Do Students Drop Out of School?

When asked this question, most people assume that kids drop out of school because they can’t handle the coursework. In fact, only about 35% of dropouts quit school because it’s too hard.

Some people think that kids drop out because they hate school – and feel alienated. That may be true for some kids, but the fact is, there is no “typical” dropout.

The reasons kids drop out of school are as complex and varied as their faces and their personal situations.
Here’s a list of some of the reasons kids drop out:

• Family trouble; poverty, violence, drugs, alcohol, too many responsibilities, needing to work and support family members.

• A family that moves a lot, especially in the city, so that the kid is forced to change schools often.

• Teen pregnancy.

• A bad attitude about school.

• The belief (not always inaccurate) that school is meaningless and irrelevant.

• Teachers and others who offer no help or support.

• Poor grades, failing, being held back a grade.

• Lack of involvement or motivation.

• Harsh discipline, suspension, probation for bad behavior.

• A difficult transition to ninth grade. (or fifth or third grade – yes the problem can start that early)

• Parents who are uninvolved, and negative about school

• Poor or no communication with families and support people.

• Absenteeism, consistent lateness and cutting class.

• Negative friendships with gangs or kids who hate school.

• Disregard for special needs, unrecognized talents, unencouraged abilities.

• Feeling like an outsider because of a learning disability or physical or other difference.

• Unacknowledged and sometimes untolerated language and cultural differences. It’s hard to learn in a situation where everyone is expected to share the same beliefs and learn in the same way.

Though this long list still doesn’t address all the potential risk factors, its important to keep in mind that sometimes the most unlikely kids succeed, and equally important, sometimes, the one who seems the most promising drops out.

Why? We think we may know.

Research has shown that no matter the situation, whether boy or girl, struggling student or gifted one, child from poverty or wealth, no matter the reason why they drop out, the reason kids stay in school is simple.

If they are going to stay in school and succeed in life, all kids need the same thing - All kids need strong, supportive relationships.

In fact, research shows that good relationships between kids at-risk and their teachers and/or mentors may significantly increase the chance that the student will not only stay in school, but increase their level of success throughout life.

Seems simple doesn't it? Yet forming strong relationships with kids can be one of the biggest challenges an educator or mentor can face. It takes heart and mind, and some creativity. How do you form strong relationships? What has NOT worked.

In the next post I will provide a surprisingly simple idea that does work, and takes no extra time or preparation.