Leaving school early -- or dropping out -- is an issue that affects roughly 7 percent of American teens, according to the 2010 figures from the National Center for Education Statistics. While there is no single reason for a child to quit school before graduating, family issues, behavioral concerns and financial problems can all contribute to this unfortunate situation.
Between actually attending school during daytime hours and making time to study and complete homework assignments in the afternoon or evening, completing high school is a truly time-consuming task. According to the Center for Public Education, most U.S. states require students to take between 900 and 1,000 instructional hours of school each year. That said, adding in pregnancy and parenting during the teen years can make getting to -- and staying in -- school more of a challenge. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention note that only about half of all teen moms complete high school, while 90 percent of non-parenting teens receive their degrees. Leaving school early for issues relating to pregnancy or caring for a young child is a reality that teen mothers may have to face.
While most schools will do as much as they can to help parents turn a student with challenging behaviors around, sometimes these issues are simply too much for the family or the educational institution to handle. Kids with behavior issues, such as attention or defiance disorders, may choose to drop out of school before graduating because of intense difficulties maintaining grades, interacting with teachers or creating social peer relationships. Additionally, some schools may force kids to leave early through mandatory expulsions for severe offenses, such as violent or aggressive acts against others. While removing a child with serious behavior-based problems from the school environment may seem like a necessary decision, the stress from leaving early -- as the American Academy of Pediatrics notes -- may actually cause further behavioral issues.
Although family finances aren't a reason for every money-strapped student to leave school early, the National Center for Education Statistic has found that children of low-income families are more than four times more likely to drop out than other kids. Kids who live in economic distress or low-income neighborhoods may feel that completing school won't help them to move out of their current situation. Additionally, these teens may believe that working for a paycheck -- even a minimum wage one -- is financially preferable to what they see as wasting time in school. These students may also be frustrated or embarrassed by their inability to afford clothing and items such as cellphones or laptops similar to those owned by other students.
Some reasons for kids leaving school early are more attributable to the schools themselves. The school size, structure and course offerings may influence the student's choice to drop out or stay put. For example, the U.S. Department of Education notes that kids who attend smaller schools are less likely to drop out than those who go to larger institutions. This doesn't necessarily mean that there is a magic number that makes kids want to leave early. Instead, a smaller, more caring school environment that offers individual attention may make kids want to stay in school long enough to graduate.
- National Center for Education Statistics: Fast Facts -- Dropout Rates
- The Center for Public Education: Time in School -- How Does the U.S. Compare?
- Centers for Disease Control: About Teen Pregnancy
- American Academy of Pediatrics: Out-of-School Suspension and Expulsion
- National Center for Education Statistics: National Event Dropout Rates
- University of Texas: High School Dropouts -- Can We Reverse the Stagnation in School Graduation?
- U.S. Department of Education: School Size
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