High School Dropouts Blame Lack of Parental Support, Teen Pregnancy

US News

A lack of parental support and the challenges of teen pregnancy are among the primary factors driving students to leave high school before earning their diploma, according to a new report released today.

Twenty-three percent of high school dropouts surveyed cited lack of support and encouragement from their parents as the reason they quit school, the report by Harris Interactive, a research firm, and Everest College revealed.

[Discover why teens learn better with engaged parents.]

Another 21 percent said they dropped out after having a child of their own, according to the survey, which included responses from 513 American adults, ages 19 to 35, who have not completed high school. The responses were weighted by age, gender, and location in order for the results to be nationally representative.

With nearly 1.3 million students leaving high school each year, the dropout crisis is "equivalent to a permanent recession," and siphons close to a trillion dollars from the national economy, Tony Miller, deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Education, said during a panel discussion in May.

Of the dropouts surveyed, only 17 percent held full-time jobs, and 46 percent of those employed either full time or part time said they had little to no opportunity to advance in their current positions. Students without a high school diploma also earn about 30 percent less than their peers who stayed in school, according to a recent earnings report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

[Learn about dropout prevention efforts in high schools.]

To reverse the dropout trend, schools need to empower parents to support their student by forging relationships between families, the school, and community resources, Pat Davenport, CEO of Families and Schools Together Inc., a nonprofit agency, said during a 2010 talk on parent involvement.

"I think the hardest job in the world is ... being a parent. It is the toughest one, and the one that comes with the least amount of instructions," Davenport said. "That's why I believe that parents really need to have support in relationships with others for us to be able to carry the burden of raising our youth."

When school administrators give parents a voice on school initiatives and after-school programs, those participants can also help pull more reluctant parents into the support network, she noted.

"If I had my kid at your school, we would know what our problems are. Commonalities bond us," she said. "That's why we like to use the strategy of parents outreaching to other parents."

Beyond parental involvement and teen pregnancy, dropouts also said missing too much school (17 percent), lacking the credits needed to graduate (17 percent), and leaving school to work and support the family (12 percent) led to their decision to quit school, according to the new report.

Schools need to understand what motivates students to drop out in order to address the problem, says John Swartz, regional director of career services at Everest College.

"I believe high schools throughout this country make student graduation their No. 1 priority," he said via E-mail. "Any data that helps them achieve that goal is going to benefit society as a whole."

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