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William J. Mathis, (802) 383-0058,
Dan Quinn, (517) 203-2940,

Solutions To School Dropouts Must Be Coordinated With Outside Agencies

Poverty is bigger than schools and schools end up trying to control the symptoms

EAST LANSING, Mich. (Jan. 17, 2013) – The fifth in a new series of two- and three-page briefs summarizing relevant findings in education policy research advises policymakers on how to decrease dropout rates. Research continues to show most risk factors influencing student dropout rates are centered outside of school, which is why it is critical for schools to coordinate with service agencies to solve the dropout crisis.

Nearly 7,000 students drop out of school every day in the United States, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. It's also been reported that high-poverty schools end up graduating less than 70 percent of their seniors. 

William Mathis, managing director of the National Education Policy Center, prepared the brief, Research-Based Options for Education Policymaking – Dropout Prevention, which is part of a new 10-part series of briefs on current policy topics.

No single factor, Mathis writes, explains or predicts dropping out. Among the multiple risk factors for whether a student may drop out of school include: socioeconomic status, whether they hold a job, their parents' educational attainment, disruption in the family, low educational expectations, high-risk peer groups, low achievement, poor attendance and misbehavior.

"The motto 'it takes a village' really does apply in situations where a student is at risk for dropping out," Mathis said. "Schools must coordinate with social and health agencies to address underlying causes, as well as provide more academic support, so more of our students in the United States make it to graduation day – multiple risk factors must be addressed with multiple strategies."

Implementing high-quality early education programs, providing academic support to students and implementing laws that require students to attend school until they reach age 18 or graduate are also important steps policymakers can take to address the dropout crisis, Mathis said.

The consequences of dropping out of school are stark, both for individuals and states. Research continues to show students who graduate from high school earn more money, have higher employment rates and lower incarceration rates, as well as better health histories, than students who drop out of school.

Dropout Prevention is part of Research-Based Options for Education Policymaking, a multipart brief that takes up a number of important policy issues and identifies policies supported by research. Each section focuses on a different issue, and its recommendations to policymakers are based on the latest scholarship.

This brief was produced by the National Education Policy Center with funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

Find the brief on the Great Lakes Center website:

This brief is also found on the NEPC website:


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