Don’t Let Your Teenager Become a School Dropout

Approximately 7,000 high school students drop out every school day. One in four students does not graduate. There are a number of reasons why students drop out of school, such as they feel like their classes are not interesting, they are failing in school, they are using drugs, they don’t feel as smart as their classmates, they don’t feel like they fit in, they have substantial family responsibilities, or their family has low expectations. The decision to drop out of school does not happen overnight; it comes after years of frustration and failure. Students who are at-risk of dropping out show signs of pulling away from school long before they actually drop out – they miss classes, skip school, do not complete homework, get low grades and engage in disruptive behavior.


Parents must tell their teens the facts about dropping out of school:

  • Dropouts are more likely to become incarcerated. Male dropouts of all races were 47 times more likely to be incarcerated than their peers of a similar age who had graduated from a four-year college or university.
  • Dropouts suffer from unemployment at a much higher rate than graduates: 54 percent of the nation’s dropouts, ages 16 to 24, were jobless on an average month during 2008, and 40 percent of all young dropouts in the country were jobless for the entire year. In sharp contrast, only about 13 percent of young adults with a college degree were jobless on average in the same time period.
  • Dropouts do not get paid as well as graduates. In the past, you didn’t need a high school education to get a job that paid a living wage. Today, experts say a high school education is the minimum that workers will need to support themselves. The mean annual earnings of the nation’s young people with a bachelor’s or advanced degree were $24,797 in 2007, three times higher than the mean earnings for dropouts of $8,358. Nearly 37 of every 100 dropouts live in poor or near-poor families.
  • Dropouts are more likely to be single mothers.


The National Dropout Prevention Center and America’s Promise Alliance both indicate that students need support in several areas to be successful:

  • Caring adults – Whether that means family involvement or mentoring / tutoring, youth need to have positive role models that care about their lives.
  • Community service opportunities – Having an impact on the larger community promotes personal and social growth and appears to have a positive impact on students in all grade levels. Plus, if youth are busy with volunteerism they have less time to engage in negative behaviors.
  • Safe places to use their time constructively – After-school programs, school sports, and summer enhancement programs inspire interest in a variety of areas and provide the activities needed to build self-esteem, affect personal development and offer supervision. These types of programs appear to be especially important for students at risk of school failure.
  • Effective education – Kids need quality learning environments that use a broad range of media for learning. Technology and customized instructional programs are effective ways of building a youth’s success. Tutoring and homework assistance are essential for a struggling youth, as well as guidance to help them find the skills and tools necessary to be successful.
  • Healthy start – Youth need good nutrition, exercise and healthy skills and habits. Youth in particular should be learning how to care for themselves through cooking, budgeting, job searching and other vital life skills to be successful and responsible.

In addition to helping your teen receive these five areas of support, parents can also help prevent their child from dropping out in the following ways:

  1. Help your teen establish goals. Teens who are excited about their future will work harder to attain it. Whether your child wants to be a doctor or a carpenter, an education is important, so take the time to talk with your child. Explain how things they are learning in school now will help them in the future. Give them some real-world applications of their education. Additionally, understand that setting goals is not an inherent skill, so you need to show a teen how to break down their ultimate goal into smaller goals with deadlines. Help your teen set small, attainable goals that are fun and have specific measures. Encourage them to celebrate each milestone achieved.
  2. Teach your child that failure is something that can happen to you, but not something you are. Everyone fails at something they try, and if they choose to look at it as a lesson learned, they will have much more success in the future. Establish an attitude of “trying” in your family. Remind your teen that Thomas Edison had to try over 10,000 experiments to find the perfect filament for the incandescent light bulb.
  3. Regular attendance is one of the most important factors in school success, so make sure your teen is there.
  4. Get involved with your child’s school. Actions really do speak louder than words, so when your teen sees you spending time in their school, they get the message that school is important.

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