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High School Dropout Rate Among Low-Income Students

“The high school dropout rate among persons 16-24 years old was highest in low-income families (16. 7 percent) as compared to high-income families (3. 2 percent)” (National Center for Education Statistics). The National Center for Education Statistics is one of many organizations that study high school dropout rates. The dropout rate among low-income families is 16. 7 giving it a 13. 5 margin between high and low-income. Greater income gaps between those at the bottom and middle of the income distribution result in low-income students to drop out of high school more often than their peers in diverse areas.

The higher dropout rate of lower income income level students compared with higher income level students show that low-income students are more vulnerable to dropout because of financial reasons. Another factor in high school dropout rates is family separation. Despite the fact that high school is supposed to help teenagers succeed, these teenagers pertaining to low-income households are more likely to dropout of high school due to lack of parental support, education, and money. It isn’t difficult to surmise that family separation can be caused by low-income.

Parents need to work long hours in order to provide for their children. These long hours can take a toll on the family though: it results in many hours a day away from their children. The ultimate result here is predictable – kids end up not getting enough attention from their parents. This brings us to the aforementioned low-income communities. Parents in these areas frequently work long hours, which leads to fewer hours with their children. If parents do not have time to focus on their children, then the end result will typically lead to the child (and their education) being neglected, intentionally or not.

As the trickle down effect continues, the child will not see the purpose of performing well or even attending school. The improvement “of parental involvement to increase academic success raises issues of equity, since rates of parental involvement are significantly higher among middle- and upper-class parents than in low-income families” (de Carvalho). This often occurs is because the parents are at one of their multiple jobs trying to make money to support their children.

Because of not receiving enough attention from their parents, students of these parents may feel less important and will feel as though there is no purpose in attending school. Phyllis Hunter, former director of reading for Houston’s public schools, feels that “engaged parent is one of life’s greatest academic advantages. It also makes it clear why educators have long believed that low-income students would soar if only they got more support at home”(Hunter). Even Hunter says that it is an advantage to have an engaged parent in a student’s life. The parent could offer motivation and life experiences to teach their child what to do and not do.

Yet, low-income parents do not have time to do this because they are constantly working hard to keep a roof over their family’s head. In addition to the lack of parental support, low-income students often live in low-income districts. Low-income district schools often lack quality education. Poverty is both a cause and effect of insufficient access to quality education. A lack of education perpetuates poverty and breaking this cycle is vital for overcoming the persistent poverty families face in low-income areas. Children in low-income schools are less likely to have well-qualified teachers.

For example, “high school math teachers in low-income school districts 27 percent majored in mathematics in college as compared to 43 percent of teachers who did so in more affluent school districts” (Ingersoll, 1999). This demonstrates how low-income school districts are treated unequally compared to high income school districts. There is even a difference in pay between math major teachers in high income and low-income school districts. “The low-income graduation rate hit 80 percent or higher in only six states, and nine had rates of 65 percent or lower.

So in 44 states, low-income students graduate at or below the national average. Meanwhile, 14 states reported graduation rates of 90 percent or higher for non-low-income students”. This quote clearly states that a student has a much lower chance of graduating if they live in a low-income state compared to living in a high income state. Because low-income students go to school in low-income school districts, students turn to believing school is not worth attending. Instead, they choose to drop out and find it may be better to go straight to working to help their families out with their financial problem.

Poverty often causes hard times and, “roughly 30 percent of students who drop out of school between the ages of 16 and 18 are working in a variety of jobs”(Rosales). Clearly, these students work to support their family in low-income communities. Most also feel it is a waste of time and others want to attend school, yet don’t have the opportunities to stay. Not all students from low-income families drop out to work, but for some their work hours may run into school hours. And for the low-income students work may be more crucial. They feel as though giving up on their education to help out their family is their final option.

This decision of dropping out of high school will cost them all of their life’s potential. Because they did not receive a good education, they will most likely work low paying jobs throughout their live. These students are trading their futures for a cyclical they will have to live financial problem they have with for their whole life. If a student does not finish high school to work, “these workers usually fill low-skilled jobs and earn approximately $9,500 a year. About half work 40 weeks or more a year averaging 31 hours a week…

On average, working youth contribute almost 22 percent to the family budget while approximately 10 percent of these teen workers contribute more than half”(Scott). Students who are under these circumstances work an average of 31 hours a week this does not allow them to focus on school and receive a proper education. Although they do not earn much money a year, it does make a difference. But is it really worth doing? Although high school is known to educate and teach teenagers at their most important ages, for low-income students it may not always be the case for them.

For some students, coming from a low-income household often leads to dropping out because of the possible absence of parental support, education, and financial problem. Organizations have been made to stop this problem for example, Apollo 20. An organization located in the Houston district. Apollo 20’s strategies to become an effective program is to have “an effective principal and effective teachers, more instructional time, use of data to drive instruction, in-school tutoring, and a culture of high expectations” (HISD).

This program was started to decrease the dropout rate for high school poverty students. Although it did not work for everyone, it is still a great start. It is about to be Apollo 20 fifth year. The program works because their community supported the initiative with an initial $16. 8 million in funds, to pay for the necessities they need to develope the students. Because of this program that’s had been a 23% increase in the graduation rate in the Houston poverty area.

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