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Trying to Get More Students to Finish High School

I’m Mario Ritter with the VOA Special English Education Report.

Many young people in the United States never finish high school. Exactly how many drop out is another issue. Recent studies of dropout rates have had conflicting results.

For one thing, schools define and measure their dropout rates differently.

Some researchers say about fifteen to twenty percent of public school students do not complete their education. But many other experts and policymakers believe that for the past twenty years, the dropout rate has been around thirty percent.

For Latino and black students, the numbers are even higher. Researchers say almost half of them leave school.

At the same time, almost half the states let students leave school before the age of eighteen without informing their parents.

Finding a good job without a high school education is more and more difficult. A Northeastern University study in two thousand two found that almost half of all dropouts age sixteen to twenty-four did not have a job.

The lack of a high school education can also lead to other problems. An estimated two-thirds of prisoners in the United States dropped out of high school.

Recent studies have shown that the majority of students who drop out do not do it because they are failing. Many are bored with their classes or feel disconnected from their school and teachers. Some students feel that educators place low expectations on them. Teen pregnancies also add to the dropout problem.

During the past twenty years, there have been efforts to increase graduation rates through education reforms. Some communities are working on dropout prevention programs. These include alternative high schools to meet special needs.

Some programs, for example, provide free transportation and childcare to help young mothers and fathers finish school. Yet special programs can cost a lot, and many school systems have limited budgets.

Federal spending on second-chance programs to help students finish school has decreased from the nineteen seventies. This was shown in a report last year from the Educational Testing Service.

Experts suggest "early warning systems" to help identify young schoolchildren at risk of dropping out of high school. They say schools also need to get parents more involved, especially if their children are missing school often.

This VOA Special English Education Report was written by Brianna Blake. I’m Mario Ritter.