Prepared for the State-Tribal Relations Committee by Connie Erickson, Research Analyst Legislative Services Division August 2003
In October 2000, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reported that approximately 11% of young people between 16 and 24 years of age were not enrolled in high school and had not completed high school. Despite attempts over the last decade at both the federal and state level to improve the quality of public education in America, the dropout rate has remained fairly constant.
As the need for a higher-skilled labor force increases in order for America to compete in a global economy, those who drop out of high school before receiving a diploma will have fewer and
fewer chances for success later in life. Employment opportunities will be more limited because today's economy requires workers who are literate, educated, have advanced technological skills, and are willing to continue learning. According to the U.S. Bureau of the Census, in July 2002, the average annual income for a high school dropout was $18,900. At the same time, the average annual income for a high school graduate was $25,900.
Dropouts are more likely to become dependent on public assistance, have health problems, and engage in criminal activity. They are also more likely to engage in high-risk behaviors such as premature sexual activity, alcohol and drug abuse, delinquency, violence, and crime. The costs to society include an underskilled labor force, lower productivity, lost taxes, and increased public assistance and crime.
What causes some students to drop out of high school? Are there predictors that parents and school officials can look at to determine if a student is at-risk of dropping out of high school? There are a number of at-risk factors that can contribute to a student's decision to drop out of school. Certainly poor academic performance is a major factor. Students who fall behind early on in reading, mathematics, and writing are at greater risk. Students who repeat one or more