Is Dropout Problem Real?

 "I didn't feel I was getting the attention or help I needed.” 

“I felt like I wasn’t getting any respect.” 

“I fell too far behind from being suspended 
for something that wasn’t serious.”

The above statements—and many more—are reasons students give to explain why they decided to halt their education altogether. It is likely that we have all heard these words many times, but it does not mean we should ignore the calls for help.

But, many are answering. 

Numbers of alternative schools and programs are emerging on the frontlines against high school dropout rates, and their efforts are showing. Statistics show that since 1970, total dropout rates fell from 14.6% to 8.1% in 2009.

A separate study cites a total rate of 7.4% in 2010 from 12.1% in 1990. Both studies reflect just over a 50% decrease.

Of 1970’s 14.6% total dropouts, 21.3% were African American, while only 12.3% were white. In 2009, the numbers declined to 5.2% white dropouts and 9.6% African American dropouts. The 2010 statistics reflect that of the 7.4% total, 8% were African American and only 5.1% were white, versus its 1990 statistics of 9.0% and 13.2%, respectively.

So, are the reduced rates enough? According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2011 findings, we reached a point in our national melting pot where the “minority” is no longer so. If the dropout rates for non-whites continue at this rate, we have an indication of the overall future of our country, communities and labor force.

“The Urgency of Now,” a report released by the Schott Foundation for Public Education, tracked the public school graduation rates of Black males since 2004. This 2012 report shows that, although the graduation rate is closing the percentage gap among Black males and white (non-Latino) and Latino males, it is not closing quickly enough.

“At this rate it would take nearly 50 years for Black males to graduate at the same rate as white males,” said John H. Jackson, president and CEO of the Schott Foundation. “I don’t think the country can wait. I don’t think any parent or student can wait for half a century to have the same opportunities, education, jobs as their white male counterparts,” he continues.

However, female dropouts hold a bigger risk than their male counterparts. Female dropouts have higher rates of unemployment, make less money and rely on public support programs to provide for their families, as noted by the National Women’s Law Center’s study, “When Girls Don’t Graduate, We All Fail.”

While it is easy to simply listen to the many excuses of youth defending themselves as to why they decided to drop out of high school, the challenge is to put an end to the neglect of our youth.

Take a look at the reports below and see the eye-opening statistics for yourself. Our hope is that, through “Education Under Arrest,” we can call many to action and help our young people, and in turn, positively impact our collective futures as a united and equal society.

Fast Facts

  • In 2010, 5.1% of white students dropped out of high school compared to 8% of Black students, 15.1% of Hispanic students, 4.2% of Asian American students and 12.4% of American Indian/Alaska native students.
  • Maine, Arizona, Vermont, Utah, and Idaho, respectively, have the highest graduation rates for Black males in America. (Maine: 97%; Arizona: 84%; Vermont: 82%; Utah: 76%, Idaho: 73%). However, these are states with comparably lower Black populations. The Schott Foundation deduces that, when provided similar opportunities to their peers, Black males can perform and rise to better outcomes.
  • Ohio (45%), Nebraska (44%), Iowa (41%), District of Columbia (38%) and New York (37%) hold the lowest graduation rates for Black boys in the U.S. These states have a higher concentration of minority students in schools.
  • According to a 2007 study, one in two female high school dropouts from ages 25-64 are unemployed.
  • The same study indicates that women without a high school diploma earn an average of $15,500 annually.
  • While teen pregnancy is still a major cause for dropping out of high school for girls, the study shows that female dropouts are also more likely to become pregnant.

Numbers at-a-Glance

  • 3 million The approximate number of high school dropouts per year in the United States
  • $260,000 The average amount of money high school graduates earn more in one lifetime than those who drop out of high school
  • 75% The percentage of crimes committed by high school dropouts
  • 60% The percentage of Black students who dropped out and spent time in prison
  • 41% The percentage of Hispanic/Latino girls who dropped out of high school due to pregnancy