Strategies To Help Solve Our School Dropout Problem

There is no greater educational loss than a student who dropouts out of school prior to graduation.  Unlike previous generations students who fail to graduate are not easily absorbed into the economy.America’s dropout problem extracts a huge cost from the nation. .  It is a loss to the student, their family, the education and support services community and the nation.

With each dropout, our nation ultimately suffers losses of tax revenue, gainful employment, and heightened costs of welfare, as well as elevated drug and alcohol use and the increased likelihood of incarceration.  According to Census Bureau estimates, each high school dropout earns $18,900 per year.  The average high school graduate earns $23,400 per year.( A difference of $4500).  Jobs for high school graduates have been decreasing since 1999.  If high school dropouts had completed  high school they would increase their lifetime earnings by $200,000.  (The Big Payoff:  Educational Attainment and Synthetic Estimates of Work-Life Earnings, July 2002)

High School graduates earn 70% more than dropouts do.  Those who hold bachelor degrees earn more than 2 1/2 times more than dropouts.   Dropouts earn one quarter of those with a Masters degree. Not surprisingly, eighty-two percent of America’s prisoners are high school dropouts.

Dropping out (leaving school before graduation) is not a new phenomenon.  Studies indicate that in 1900 America had a 90% dropout rate.  Until 1945, our economy could absorb school dropouts.  This is no longer true.

Dropouts today are more likely to:

go to prison;

be on welfare;

commit crimes;

be single parents,

join gangs.

But there are answers.  The National Dropout Prevention Center has been studying the problem since 1987 and has developed strategies which the National Education Goals Panel has stated are “the most effective strategies to help solve the school dropout problem.


(Developed by the National Dropout Prevention Center)

Early Interventions

Early Childhood Education

Birth-to-three interventions demonstrate that providing a child educational enrichment can modify IQ.  The most effective way to reduce the number of children who will ultimately drop out is to provide the best possible classroom instruction from the beginning of their school experience.


Family Involvement

Research consistently finds that family involvement has a direct, positive effect on children'[s achievement and is the most accurate predictor of a student’s success in school.

Reading & Writing Programs

Early interventions to help low-achieving students recognize that focusing on reading and writing skills is the foundation for effective learning in all subjects.


The Basic Core Strategies


Mentoring is a one-to-one caring, supportive relationship between a mentor and a mentee that is based on trust. Tutoring, also a one-to-one activity, focuses on academics and is an effective way to address specific needs such as reading, writing, or math competencies.

Service Learning

Service learning connects meaningful community service experiences with academic learning. This teaching/learning method promotes personal and social growth, career development, and civic responsibility and can be a powerful vehicle for effective school reform at all grade levels.

Alternative Schooling

Alternative schooling provides potential dropouts a variety of options that can lead to graduation, with programs paying special attention to the students’ individual social needs and the academic requirements for a high school diploma.

Out-of-School Enhancement

Many schools provide after-school and summer enhancement programs that eliminate information loss and inspire interest in a variety of areas. Such experiences are especially important for students at risk of school failure.

Making the Most of Instruction

No sustained and comprehensive effort to keep students in school can afford to ignore what happens in the classroom. Strategies that produce better teachers, expand teaching methods to accommodate a range of learning styles, take advantage of today’s cornucopia of technological resources, and meet the individual needs of each student can yield substantial benefits.

Professional Development

Teachers who work with youth at high risk of academic failure need to feel supported and need to have an avenue by which they continue to develop skills, techniques, and learn about innovative strategies.


Openness to Diverse Learning Styles and Multiple Intelligences

When educators show students that there are different ways to learn, students find new and creative ways to solve problems, achieve success, and become lifelong learners.


Instructional Technologies

Technology offers some of the best opportunities for delivering instruction that engages students in authentic learning, addresses multiple intelligences, and adapts to student’s learning styles.

Individualized Instruction

A customized individual learning program for each student allows teachers flexibility with the instructional program and extracurricular activities.


Making the Most of the Wider Community

Students who come to school bring traces of a wider community; when students leave school, either before or after graduation, they return to that community. It’s impossible to isolate “school” within the walls of the school building. Effective efforts to keep students in school take advantage of these links with the wider community.

Systemic Renewal

Systemic renewal calls for a continuing process of evaluating goals and objectives related to school policies, practices, and organizational structures as they impact a diverse group of learners.

Community Collaboration

When all groups in a community provide collective support to the school, a strong infrastructure sustains a caring environment where youth can thrive and achieve.

Career Education and Workforce Readiness

A quality guidance program is essential for all students. School-to-work programs recognize that youth need specific skills to prepare them for the larger demands of today’s workplace.

Conflict Resolution and Violence Prevention

A comprehensive violence prevention plan, including conflict resolution, must deal with potential violence as well as crisis management. Violence prevention means providing daily experiences at all grade levels that enhance positive social attitudes and effective interpersonal skills in all students.

Adapted from Strategies To Help Solve Our School Dropout Problem© Franklin P. Schargel & Jay Smink, Eye on Education, Inc.