3 Reasons Students Dropout of High School


Why does Stanislaus County have a high school dropout rate of 25 percent? 

United Way Worldwide’s call to action we blogged about earlier this week prompted United Way of Stanislaus County to further research the issue of high school dropout. We found that dropping out of school is a process, and does not occur overnight. The process often starts prior to a child entering into the school system. Poor academic achievement as early as elementary school is predicator of dropping out of school. 

There are many factors that put a student at risk to dropping out of school. Many times not all risk factors apply to all students. However, research has consistently indicated the following risk factors as variables that lead to a student dropping out of school:

  • Lack of parent engagement
  • Poor academic performance
  • Work/Family economic needs
  • Lack of a supportive adult
  • Disconnect between school academics and work
  • Not enough individualized attention
  • Low student engagement

Based on our research, there appeared to be three main reasons students dropout of high school in Stanislaus County:

1. Parent Engagement was most often reported as a necessary factor for a child to be successful in school. Research stated educational support (both financial and emotional) from parents is key to a child being successful and staying in school. If parents do not hold high aspirations for their child’s educational attainment, their child will not see the purpose of staying in or doing well in school.

If parents are engaged early in the child’s educational career the child is more likely to be successful in school. The parent’s interest and investment in their child’s education shows the child that education is important. This consequently increases the child’s likelihood of having good academic performance.

2. Academic Performance is another key factor that was consistently cited as a factor that influences a student staying in school and graduating. Several research articles cited that the road to academic success starts early in the education system. Both school readiness and 3rd grade reading proficiency have been cited as indicators of future academic success. After the 3rd grade children are no longer learning to read, but are now reading to learn. Helping struggling students in the 3rd grade to read at or above reading proficiency will help be more prepared for success in the future.

Research has also indicated that success in middle school is a key indicator of whether a student will drop out of high school. In middle school, a student is bombarded with many social changes that affect success in school. The transition from elementary school, where children are primarily in one class with the same classmates and teacher, to middle school, where students are rotating classes, teachers and classmates, is a difficult transition for some students. The relationship with their teachers isn’t as strong, due to the fact that they have multiple subjects. This makes it difficult for students to get the attention they need. Research has indicated that success in middle school is a strong indicator for success in high school.

3. Family Economic Needs also arose in research as a contributing factor to school dropout. For example, Russell Rumberger and Sun Ah Lim authors of the study Why Students Drop Out of School: A Review of 25 Years of Research (2008), found that students from a lower socioeconomic status were more likely to drop out of school than a student from a higher socioeconomic status. Russell Rumberger and Sun Ah Lim’s study also found that students who work more than 20 hours a week are more at risk to drop out.

In July 2012 United Way of Stanislaus County made an informed decision align with United Way Worldwide’s Education Focus Area. In support of United Way Worldwide’s goal to decrease the national dropout rate, United Way of Stanislaus County adopted the goal of increasing the graduation rate in Stanislaus County.

Over 20 stakeholders gathered in October 2012 for the first Education Initiative Collaborative meeting, during which we announced our plan to develop and launch an initiative that will help reach our goal by July 2013. In order to determine our community need and gather data outlining the relevance of this objective, our first step was to talk to students in our community to determine what they need to be more successful in school. As a champion of positive change in our community, we need to determine what educational issues were, from the perspective of those on the “front lines” in our community. Eight focus groups were held. We spoke with students, parents, young adults who have dropped out of school, teachers, community experts and stakeholders to identify the main barriers to success; over 50 individuals were spoken and listened to.

We are looking for community support to fund our Education Initiative. If you would like to help us increase the high school graduation rate in Stanislaus County, please make a tax-deductable donation to support our work. You can donate here with a credit card, or send a check to 422 McHenry Avenue, Modesto, CA 95354.

Question: In addition to the information we've shared in this post, what other reasons do students dropout of high school?