Why do Students Drop Out?

After talking about equity in education during class, I began to think about what happens when students experience a lack of equity in their district. As future teachers, I believe it is one of our biggest responsibilities to make sure each student is able to learn to their fullest potential as we prepare them for the workforce and further education. When I was searching for articles about equity in education, I came across an article from neaToday called, “Some of the Surprising Reasons Why Students Drop Out of School,” by Cindy Long. This article was in the form of an interview and had some very interesting information on drop out students in high school. The interviewee was Deborah L. Feldmanthe author of “Why We Drop Out”: Understanding and Disrupting Student Pathways to Leaving School. This book consists of stories from students who dropped out and shares their reasons for making the decision.

When asked, students generally said they enjoyed elementary school, however, when they got to middle school many said that they began to feel helpless and hopeless about their ability to be a student. Most students who drop out tend to have a breaking point, either an incident with bullying or academic hopelessness, which is very common in math. When Feldman was asked if their was any connections between the types of students who drop out, she shared that many of them are from low-income families or kids of color. But the most common, and most shocking reason to me, was that the students had “some kind of learning challenge that doesn’t get addressed and the student feels academically abandoned.”  Teachers are put in schools to help students learn and overcome their learning disabilities not to abandoned the students who are struggling.

The article also discussed things that districts can do to avoid having so many students who drop out:

  • Early warning systems-have a plan in place when certain situations arise with students such as truancy or falling behind academically
  • Orientation with students about their value and the desire to see each individual succeed
  • Be sure that students feel comfortable with their teachers–something that is a joke to you may be taken another way by a student
  • Build a caring community that supports and teaches about the different backgrounds of students within the district

To me, many of these were common sense. What was more interesting to me was what children said when they were asked what they wished their educators had done differently. Students who struggled in later years tended to want more individual help from their teachers who were often unwilling to stay late. On the other hand, students who struggled in early years and did not get the extra support that was needed often blamed themselves and said things such as “I wished I’d worked harder.” They also wished their parents had been more effective at discipline when they did not go to school or get their work done.

So what can we do as perspective teachers to change the future?

We can spend more time with the kids when they need individual help–this career is not for everyone, but most of us want to help and see students succeed so a little extra time out of our busy schedule is not a large fee to help a struggling student. We can also gear each class and the assignments we give based on the individuals in the class. If there are students who are struggling to complete homework at home, you have to think that maybe their home environment is not suitable for homework. In a class like this you could give some time to complete problems that are assigned.

This information will be helpful in my classroom because I can be prepared to look for signs of struggling students and discuss with them one-on-one what options would help them succeed. This will be especially useful in math because it is an area that sparks many students ideas to drop out if they have not received the needed help in previous years. After this past semester of math courses, I fully understand that it is difficult to grasp certain concepts in the little time given during class. Thankfully my professor was willing to work with students outside of class to meet their needs. I intend to do this with my students to give them the best chance in their career paths.


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