Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Real Reason For Dropouts

EDITOR'S NOTE: A final project from Spring 2014.

By Jewel Sharp and Cooper Haynie

High school graduation rates in the United States have reached an historic high with 80% of students receiving their high school diplomas in 2012. However, according to the National Center for Education statistics, an estimated 1.1 million students of the 2012 high school class did not graduate.

The country may be celebrating a milestone, but there are still millions of young adolescents who are now facing the negative social stigma that comes with making a decision that is often not a choice. Poverty alone is a key factor in many students dropping out of high school, but the problem is more in depth than just poverty. Unlike universities, public schools are free and therefore the problem is not the students being unable to afford an education, the problem stems from social and cultural differences.

Daniel Fridman, professor of Sociology at the University of Texas says, “In school, the students come from different backgrounds, whether it be middle class, upper, or lower and the poorer kids do not have a lot of the language skills or cultural capital that is really valued in an education institution.”

Fridman continued to say that this essentially leads the students from low-income families to do worse in their school work compared to the other students. “Essentially what was social inequality becomes legitimized in school as people being better or worse. They drop out because they think they’re not cut out for it.”

The social classes create invisible barriers between peers and the poorer students are thus rejected based on the things they are taught outside of school and from their environments. This may explain why poverty alone is a strong correlating factor for most students, except for Hispanic students.

Hispanic students show a lower correlation between poverty and high school dropout rates, and this could be in part due to this cultural barrier they face instead.

Data shows that Hispanic students generally do just as well as other students, regardless of whether or not they live below the poverty line, except for near the U.S. and Mexico border. Here, a cultural and language barrier causes young kids to perform poorly in school compared to their peers.

Western Texas and along the Rio Grande Valley typically have a higher percentage of people who speak Spanish as their first language, specifically Dimmit County and Zavala County. These two counties have the highest dropout rates in the state, and the highest Hispanic dropout rate in the state.

When the majority of the school speaks in another language there is an obvious setback that can snowball into a further learning gap. There are ESL courses provided for non-native speakers, however, these counties also have some of the highest poverty rates in the state, and likely cannot afford enough teachers to efficiently educate these students.

When the Texas Education Agency was asked about how they help low-income schools in poverty stricken areas of the state, DeEtta Culbertson, media contact for the TEA, directed us to a page for grant applications for schools and offered no further comment.

This map shows dropout rates for different students in every county in Texas, with the exception of Loving and Kenedy counties, as there was no data available for those counties. Also note Dimmit, Zavala and La Salle counties in deep red, showing the highest dropout rates.


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