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Leaving high school before completing the full course of studies is a common problem among adolescents in the U.S. I was witnessing this phenomenon as the number of my classmates was a decreasing year after year up to graduation. I was wondering what urged them to quit their school education. By leaving high school, adolescents deprive themselves of the possibility of getting a higher education, obtaining a high-paying job, and improving their living conditions. It puzzles me how a person can voluntarily reject such opportunities, which is why I decided to explore this topic. An analysis of the factors contributing to the high school dropout rate shows that school climate has a significant impact on students’ decision to leave school.
Overview of the Problem
The scope of the problem of high school dropout rates in the U.S. is difficult to underestimate. It is reported that over 7,000 students quit their school education daily throughout the country, which is 1.2 million annually (McGiboney 2016). It also has been found that only 60 percent of adolescents aged 16-24 get a job during the year, in which they leave school (McGiboney 2016). It means that after dropping out, some of them neither work nor study, which is likely to have a negative impact on their future career opportunities and overall living conditions.
Students do not study in a vacuum but are required to interact with their teachers and peers regularly. This social environment is an important factor influencing their motivation and intentions as to proceeding with education. The most significant components of school climate are adolescents’ relationships with the teaching staff and their class fellows (McGiboney 2016). Identifying the effects which these factors have on students’ decision to quit studies may help to develop strategies that will improve the academic environment and reduce high school dropout rates.
Relationships With Peers
Students spend a significant amount of time interacting with their peers. The quality of relationships between classmates contributes to shaping their school experiences (Orpinas and Raczynski 2016). One of the types of peer relationships is friendship, which is a beneficial and essential part of human life. However, the communication between class fellows sometimes takes a turn for the worse. Some students become victims of bullying, which may contribute to the decision to drop out, as well as other problems, including depression and suicidal ideation (Orpinas and Raczynski 2016).
It has been found that students who are engaged in friendly relationships are less likely to leave school than their unsociable and victimized peers (Orpinas and Raczynski 2016). This finding conveys a suggestion that measures should be taken to prevent bullying and encourage positive communication between classmates.
The feeling of social connectedness with class fellows is another aspect of peer relationships. Researchers argue that school connectedness ensures students’ involvement in extracurricular activities and prevents them from developing health-compromising behaviors (Orpinas and Raczynski 2016). Since it makes adolescents feel safe and be close to peers, they are discouraged from quitting their studies (Orpinas and Raczynski 2016). On the other hand, when students do not experience a sense of engagement and connectedness, they come up with the thought of dropping out (McGiboney 2016). Thus, establishing close relationships among classmates and allowing each of them to participate in class activities is crucial for reducing dropout rates.
Influence of Teachers
Although interpersonal communication among classmates has a great impact on a student’s desire to leave school or continue education, teachers also may affect this decision. In fact, they can influence the way in which adolescents treat each other, thus improving the school climate. Researchers state that the quality of teaching may contribute to students’ decision to stay or drop out (Ripamonti 2017). Indeed, if a teenager finds the studies boring or irrelevant to life circumstances, he or she may decide to quit education due to its seeming uselessness. For this reason, instructors should bear in mind that they should arouse interest in their students to prevent their decision to leave school.
However, delivering knowledge is not the only thing that concerns teachers. The lack of support from a caring adult may also contribute to high school dropout (Orpinas and Raczynski 2016). It has been found that instructors showing interest in their students’ achievements and peer relationships encourage adolescents to continue their studies (Orpinas and Raczynski 2016). It is especially important for schoolchildren coming from families with no support for education since they are at higher risk of dropout (Orpinas and Raczynski 2016). Thus, the lack of care from the teaching staff is another constituent of a school climate factor contributing to dropout rates.
To sum up, the school climate has a considerable impact on high school dropout rates in the U.S. It consists of relationships with peers and interaction with teachers. Maltreatment by classmates and disengagement from school activities, as well as lack of support from instructors, may contribute to adolescents’ decision to quit their education. It was surprising to find out how many students drop out throughout the country.
In my opinion, a possible solution to the problem is that teachers may improve the school climate by identifying and addressing the causes of bullying, engaging all students in extracurricular activities, and encouraging teamwork. As a student, I also can use the learned information in a practical way by building strong friendly relationships with my peers. Perhaps, if I meet someone who wants to drop out, I will be able to explain to this person possible reasons for his or her desire and suggest finding social support.
McGiboney, Garry Wade. 2016. The Psychology of School Climate. Newcastle upon Tyne, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.
Orpinas, Pamela and Katherine Raczynski. 2016. “School Climate Associated with School Dropout Among Tenth Graders.” Pensamiento Psicológico 14(1):9-20.
Ripamonti, Enrico. 2017. “Risk Factors for Dropping out of High School: A Review of Contemporary, International Empirical Research.” Adolescent Research Review 3(3):321-338.