Three years ago, I wrote a column about why students drop out of high school. However, it wasn’t based on traditional research data. Rather, this top ten list was derived from a questionnaire administered to dropouts in a Baltimore school district.
The high dropout rate continues to be one of the most alarming problems facing American education. What’s so disturbing is that many of the reasons given readily fixable. I want to revisit that list... repeat some suggestions... and offer some updates.
1.Lack of family support and encouragement: Is coming to school every day... being fit for instruction... and completing homework assignments-- a priority? Teachers will tell you the added difficulties they face when support from the home isn’t there. There is just so much they can accomplish from bell to bell; what comes before and after counts as well. Parent education and the use of social workers have been suggested as ways to tackle this problem.
2.Negative peer pressure. The best-intentioned parents have their hands tied when destructive “friends” enter the picture. Two remedies here. First, keep an open line of communication between parent and child at all age levels; start early— because these bonds are more difficult to form down the the road. Second, try to influence the friendships children form. This is a an excellent antidote to negative peer pressure. Though not a perfect correlation, I’ve found that students involved in sports, extracurricular clubs, and volunteer activities strike up the most positive relationships.
3.Bullying: Children who are bullied will not do well in school or won’t come to school altogether. I’ve written and spoken extensively about this problem. Since this column first appeared, there have been considerable strides in tackling this problem, although it hasn’t gone away altogether. Parents must work with their school systems to develop zero tolerance policies with regard to bullying with strict, non-negotiable consequences for offenders.