Factors for Dropping Out of School

Why do some students fail to finish high school?

Personal Experience

I'm certain that all of us now in college have witnessed at least a few, if not many, examples of students dropping out. When I was in high school, I definitely saw my fair share of high school drop outs. This is clearly evident when you look at the graduation rate of my class of 2008: when we started freshman year, there were over 720 students in my class. At graduation, there were roughly 440 students that walked the stage and received their diploma. Why did almost 300 students fail to graduate? I saw firsthand many factors that surely contributed to this occurrence. One factor that was one of the more noticeable was teen pregnancies. I witnessed several of my classmates becoming pregnant at very young ages (some as young as 14) and this obviously can make it very difficult to complete high school. Another factor I didn't so much witness but definitely heard about was students dropping out to work full-time. Typically these students had differing reasons for deciding to work instead of completing their education. Another factor was that students would become involved in criminal activities, such as assault or theft. More often than not this would lead to suspensions or expulsions. My school took a zero-tolerance policy on many issues and one mistake could cost students dearly.


Each of these factors that I saw in high school had repercussions on the students which ultimately affected their graduation rates. For example, in the case of teen pregnancies, none of the girls from my grade who gave birth while in high school graduated. This is because the mothers decided to take care of their infants full-time and either worked or relied on family for support. In one instance, a girl attempted to come back to high school to pick up where she left off and she got pregnant a second time! This also sometimes goes along with the second factor I saw, which was students quitting school to work full-time. Most of these students were males, and more often than not they decided to work because they had gotten a girl pregnant and wanted to support their child/family financially. They decided the short-term reward of money was a better idea than investing in their future with an education, or they felt they had no choice but to work. Also, I knew someone who decided to work because they had troubles at home and their parents were struggling to make ends meet. This can put a student in a very difficult situation. Lastly almost every student who got into trouble with the law was expelled or simply dropped out of high school. Some students developed violent behavior, others resorted to stealing (sometimes even from the school), and still others dealt drugs. Usually there were just rumors of whatever crime was committed, but the proof that something bad had happened was their permanent absenteeism.


According to a website dedicated to understanding the issues associated with high school drop outs called Dropping Out of High School: Prevalence, Risk Factors, and Remediation Strategies by Jeremy Burrus and Richard Roberts, statistics shows that certain elements may influence a student's success with regards to graduating high school. For instance, coming from a low-income family, lack of interest in school, and limited parent/teacher involvement with a student can negatively affect their graduation rate. As many as 50% of African-American, American Indian, and Hispanic students drop out in some cities (Burrus & Roberts, 2012). These families are almost always low-income, which is mostly what I saw when I was in high school. Also, according to Burrus & Roberts, the areas where these families live tend to be riddled with crime, which is consistent with what I witnessed. The underlying trend here seems to be that students who come from poor families, which are typically racial minorities, struggle to achieve academic success.

Created by Ramey Sullivan