School drop outs ultimately increase the number of people entering the criminal justice system and drag on the American economy as a whole.
Unlike suspensions and expulsions, the rate of dropout has been in a steady decline in the past two decades. But eliminating exclusionary practices could decrease dropouts even more by improving the quality of and access to education for students.
The decline in dropout rates
From 1990 to 2014, the dropout rate of high school students decreased from 12.1 percent to 6.5 percent.
This welcome decline is partially due to the improvement in rate of graduation for the Hispanic population in the United States, which decreased from 32 percent in 2000 to 14 percent in 2013. Data also shows that more young Hispanic people are attending college than ever before; the college attendance rate spiked from 12 to 18 percent between 2009 and 2013.
However, around 1.3 million young people still drop out of school each year, so it remains an issue that calls for practical solutions in schools.
Causes of dropout
Exclusionary policies, like zero tolerance, suspension and expulsion, have been linked to the quality of education for a student, and their likelihood of staying in school.
When a student is suspended, the most immediate and apparent effect is their denied access to their educational environment. Studies have also found that suspensions can cause or exacerbate antisocial tendencies in students as well as deteriorate student-teacher relationships.
These factors can cause students to become isolated and fall behind. Two separate 2006 studies found that standardized reading scores, as well as state standardized test scores, were lower for students who had been suspended. These kind of academic difficulties cause more students to drop out of school.
A 2011 UCLA Civil Rights Project study set out to more definitively prove the direct connection between exclusionary discipline policies and dropout rates.Using all dropout data from the entire state of Texas between 1999 and 2007, the study found that 10 percent of disciplined students eventually dropped out compared to 2 percent of other students.
Effects of dropout
Dropping out of school can have a significant impact on the finances and career success of a student.
Between dropping out of school and age 24, the average unemployment rate is 54 percent, compared to about 32 percent for those who graduated, 21 percent for those with one-to-three years of college, and 13 percent for those with a bachelor’s degree or higher.
Even for the rest of their lives, drop outs are much more likely to be unemployed. As of 2009, the national unemployment rate for high school dropouts was 15.9 percent, compared to 9.4 percent for high school graduates, 7.9 percent for individuals with some college credits or an associate’s degree, and 4.7 percent for individuals with a bachelor’s degree or higher.
High school dropouts are also much more likely to end up in the criminal justice system. On any given day, according to a 2009 study, one in 10 male high school dropouts will be in juvenile or criminal justice, compared to one in 35 male graduates.
This doesn’t just have a huge impact on the individual, but on the nation’s economy as well. The Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University released a report in 2009 that found just how devastating of an impact dropping out can have.
According to the study, a high school dropout will have an average negative drain on the U.S. economy of around 5,000. This is compared to the positive contribution of $287,000 from a high school graduate.
The decline in dropout rates is extremely beneficial to the student population as individuals and to the economy, thus making it a trend worth accelerating.
Studies have been indicating for decades that exclusionary policies, particularly suspensions, lead to more dropouts. These policies need to be eliminated in favor of policies that increase the quality and engagement of the educational environment for students, in order to keep them in schools and out of the criminal justice system.
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