Students do not drop out of high school because they "flunk-out." They are, for the most part, bored.
Data in the study "The Silent Epidemic" released by Civic Enterprises (www.civicenterprises.net/pdfs/theslilentepidemic3-06.pdf) and underwritten by Bill Gates in 2006 still holds for today as drop-out rates increase.
Of those who dropped out, 47% "...said a major reason for dropping out was that classes were not interesting." The company they keep is also important. 42% "...spent time with people who were not interested in school." These were the biggest reasons given by drop-outs with high GPAs.
69% "...said they were not motivated or inspired to work hard." They had little homework but "70 percent were confident they could have graduated if they had tried."
Getting a job to make money was a factor for 32%. Becoming a parent (26%) and caring for a family member (22%) were also factors.
On the other hand, 35% cited "failing in school" as a major factor. "Three out of ten said they could not keep up with schoolwork; and 43 percent said they missed too many days of school and could not catch up."
Nearly half reported that they began high school "poorly prepared," having fallen behind in elementary school and were never able to catch up. 32% had repeated a grade and 29% doubted they could have graduated even if they had worked harder.
What was the response to this report? Immediately many education schools as well as some states advocated raising the graduation age to force students to remain in school. It was a characteristically bad idea.
Instead, we should drop the age for compulsory education.
I had a student who had "burned out" on class work. While I was a high school biology teacher in Hong Kong International School, one of my homeroom students was not doing well. As we sat in conference in the headmaster’s office, parent and student both present, the student explained how all that math and literature and science just didn’t seem worth studying. It wasn’t exactly that the courses were boring, but that he did not find that much motivation within himself to do schoolwork each day. "I don’t see why I need to do this," was his exclamation.
Even though we were an American school, we were overseas and not bound by state truancy laws. He was 15. My suggestion was that he take a semester off and go do something. There were jobs down in the harbor that were available to non-residents. In the U.S., I would suggest a local assembly line factory. The student and parent agreed. And yes, that next year he was back in school with a new found appreciation of what really boring labor awaited someone without a high school diploma and how his schoolwork might actually be useful in life.
A century-ago, schoolchildren came to our classrooms with a life rich with experiences, and the school provided the knowledge that helped them understand that world. Today, many children have a confined life of limited experiences, rapidly narrowing through the new array of electronic distractions.
What we teach does not "connect" because they have no experience.
To compound the problem, teachers who had the academic freedom to make class interesting are now required to script their lessons and teach-to-the-test. And nothing is more boring than test-prep. The recent upsurge in drop-outs can be laid at the doorstep of No Child Left Behind and will accelerate under its mutated offspring "Blueprint for Reform."
Ask any assessed teacher from kindergarten to senior high school and they will tell you how they too have narrowed their lessons.