Dropout Research

Atlantic Research Partners wanted to develop a deeper understanding of the specific factors influencing a student’s decision to drop out of school.  We compiled existing nationwide data, then conducted a survey of over 1,100 students across 12 states; students who had dropped out but who were at the time of the survey attempting to attain a high school diploma through alternative means.  We also conducted one-on-one interviews with a substantial number of these students and then compiled these results in an Executive Report entitled, “Dropping Out: Stereotypes, Reality and Recovery” . For a copy of this report, click here

Because this dropout crisis did not arise suddenly, and its effects are not immediate, no groundswell or sense of public urgency has mobilized to confront it.  Like budget deficits, the matter is generally viewed abstractly as a problem, but not a catastrophic life-altering tragedy.  Dropouts are faceless and nameless in the media’s statistical data. The harm they – and the nation – face is perceived as compelling but not urgent.  This very human tendency to discount that which is not perceived as urgent is further coupled with the components of bias and prejudice; the natural propensity to view those “not like us” in any population subgroup as someone else’s problem.

Consider also the published data; massive, but often confusing, due to historic and demonstrable underestimations of drop-put rates and the over-estimations of graduation rates – and varying measurement criteria from state to state. As Eugene Hickok, former U.S. Department of Education Deputy Director observed, “Many schools in America can’t tell us on any given day who’s in school and who’s not, nor in any given year how many students have successfully made it through their four years of schooling to graduate, and how many have dropped out.”  This lack of accountability is sobering:

  • Minorities are abandoning education at a disproportionately higher rate than
    non-minorities; the social, political and economic effects of this disparity are substantial – short term and long term.
  • Over the course of his or her lifetime, a high school dropout earns, on average, about $260,000 less than a high school graduate.
  • Dropouts from the Class of 2008 alone will cost the nation more that $319 billion in lost wages over the course of their lifetimes.
  • Dropouts report having more health problems, and on average, die at an earlier age than students who graduate.

The dropout crisis is here and we need to face it and face the facts.


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