Get this: 66% of young people who leave high school before graduating are dealing with at least three “adverse factors.” That could be homelessness, pregnancy, violence, gangs, illness, parental incarceration—the list goes on.
A quarter of students who dropout are experiencing a whopping six to twelve adverse factors at any given time.
That’s a lot of stress for a teenager.
America’s Promise Alliance—a partner of Tufts University—interviewed more than 200 people between the ages of 18 and 25 who did not graduate from high school. They surveyed another 2,000 young adults who had dropped out, comparing their answers to a control group of 1,000 graduates.
The report, “Don’t Call Them Dropouts,” identifies the confluence of factors (there are 25 in all) that cause a teenager to leave high school before graduation.
“No one number tells the story, no one story tells a number,” said Jonathan Zaff, Senior Vice President of Research & Policy Development for America’s Promise Alliance. “These are young people who went through extraordinary circumstances… like abuse and neglect. But through all this, these young people persevered… and showed amazing character and grit.”
In addition to the research, the report also shares personal stories like this one:
“Like I said, my father used to beat on me. Never had my mom in my life; she was always on drugs. It was just me growing up watching over my little brothers while she was out in the street doing her thing. So me and my other brothers grew up too quick, took responsibility, we just — it was too late to go back to school.” - Thomas
Twenty percent of Americans do not finish high school. That means 80 percent do graduate—a record high, as Marketplace’s Sarah Gardner reported in April:
Still, America’s Promise aims to reach a 90% graduation rate by 2020.
The Alliance for Excellent Education has looked at the economic implications:
Without a high school diploma, these individuals are far more likely to spend their lives periodically unemployed, on government assistance, or cycling in and out of the prison system. But in today’s knowledge-based economy, high school dropouts are not the only ones affected when they choose to drop out.
Lower local, state, and national tax revenues are the most obvious consequences of higher dropout rates; even when dropouts are employed, they earn, on average, $8,000 less annually than high school graduates and they pay less in taxes.
Talk to us:
How can schools, communities and local governments better meet the needs of students who drop out?
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting has invested a lot of resources into covering the reasons why children drop out of high school and the economic effects. Check out the CPB’s “American Graduate” series here, which includes town hall meetings with parents, students, teachers and experts about this issue from communties around the country like this one in New York City: