Profile of Dropout Prevention Students. Dropout prevention students are characterized by their backgrounds and circumstances, the conditions they experience, and the risk indicators they demonstrate that increase the likelihood they will drop out of school. These factors include; course failure, grade retention, low test scores, school location, spending per pupil, student body composition, race, socioeconomic status, student mobility, resiliency, motivation, family characteristics, early adult responsibilities (Tyler & Lofstrom, 2009), aggressive behavior, and maternal education level (Ensminger, M. & Slusarcick, A., 1992) . Students who become victims of these variables become handicapped as adults without high school diplomas. The act of dropping out of school may be just another event in a chain of events that are driven by these variables. Some research views the decision to drop out of school as a long-term process that encapsulates these issues and culminates with the act of dropping out (Finn, 1989).
In a study of students surveyed on their participation of high risk behaviors about fifteen percent of students self-identify as very high-risk, 15 percent as high-risk, 35 percent as medium- risk, 20 percent as low-risk, and 15 percent as no-risk. Some of their characteristics of the very high-risk category include having been arrested at least once, having access to guns, using alcohol, using illegal drugs, being sexually active, being depressed, and attempting suicide. Students in the high-risk category share characteristics such as alcohol use, marijuana use, behind in school, truant, and depressed. Students in the medium risk category, the largest risk category, are involved in at least two among these risk behaviors: being behind in school, truancy, alcohol use, marijuana use, and sexual activity. Low-risk and no-risk youth are less likely to drop out because of their behaviors which could include cutting a class or taking a drink of alcohol. Although these students are categorized as low-risk and no-risk, they are surrounded by the students who are taking part in negative behaviors and face the possibility of being victimized by them (Dryfoos, 1996).
Low Socioeconomic Status. This element of a DOP student’s experience, a primary factor in the current study and one of the strongest indicators of DOP status will be analyzed first. While neighborhood characteristics influence educational attainment among young people, institutional factors also play a role. School quality is often higher in wealthier neighborhoods. The higher the quality of the neighborhood, as measured by wealth or socioeconomic status, the less likely young people are to drop out of high school and the more likely they are to attain a college degree (Santiago, et al., 2011). According to Vartarian & Gleason (2002), students in these neighborhoods benefit from more positive adult role models, peers with whom goals and experiences can be shared, and high quality local institutions. Likewise, as neighborhood conditions improve, they have a primary impact on high school dropout rates Living in socially- isolated neighborhoods has a negative impact on educational attainment, due to the lack of influence by positive adult role models. Specifically, young people are likely to model what those around them are doing. Socially-isolated neighborhoods suffer from the lack of positive adult role models to impede the process of educational attainment. The most negative effects of living in socially-isolated neighborhoods are the most severe among young people who do not have the family support, or positive adult presence, to support them as they attempt to overcome the challenges of such a setting (Vartanian & Gleason, 2002). Urban area students are impacted by the challenges of their communities where there are high concentrations of poverty. Concentrations of depression are linked to these communities. Reasons for this link vary, and can range from higher level of stressors in the community, experiencing traumatic events to having low-levels of social support and cohesion. Regardless of covariates, SES of the community remained a statistically significant indicator. Rural areas also suffer from many of these challenges (Galea, et al., 2007).
There is a statistically significant relationship between a student’s decision to drop out of school and contact with the legal system. Students who are arrested in ninth or tenth grade are six times as likely to make the decision to drop out of school as their counterparts (Hirschfield, 2009). Students who come from a background of low socioeconomic status (SES) feel the after effects of a community that does not have a good relationship with school systems or job markets (Ensminger & Slusarcick, 1992). They are more likely than other students to drop out of school (Bloom, 2010). The challenges that low SES students face may stem from events that occurred early in their lives. Black, et al. (2000) examined the Bayley Scales of Infant Development scores of infants from low-incomes families to find that these infants developed at a lower rate than children from the normative sample. The study found that these students are less likely to explore objects in their environment, engage in tasks or with others, and have lower levels of enthusiasm, initiation, persistence, and emotional/dispositional quality.
Students who progress through their early lives in a state of low SES are impacted by the risks of their circumstances and negatively affected in the area of mental health. These circumstances include neighborhood disadvantage and poverty-related stressors. They can result in delinquency, attention problems, aggression, somatic complaints, and anxiety/depression (Santiago, et al., 2011). They deal with daily challenges from their families, neighborhood, and school — all of whom are impacted and interconnected by the same challenges. As a result, the SES students experience emotional, cognitive, behavioral, spiritual, and physiological reactions that occur during and after traumatic events. The level of risk for students of low SES to develop mental health disorders and impairment are higher than the risk levels for the general population (Kiser, L., 2006).
Further, students in these circumstances are more likely to experience traumatic events that cause stress-related issues. In a meta-analysis of 25 potential risk factors for PTSD (post- traumatic stress disorder) Trickey, et al. (2011) found that both the traumatic and post- events factors experienced by the child play a major role in whether a child develops PTSD after the event. The criteria for the study considered children from 6 to18 years of age from 64 studies between 1980 and 2009. Variables examined included age, race, gender, IQ, SES, pre and post- trauma life events, bereavement, and severity. The results illustrated that children who experience low social support, social withdrawal, poor family functioning, and distractions have a higher likelihood for PTSD. It should be noted that a strong factor in the successful treatment of PTSD is early screening and prompt treatment.
Improving the quality of education provided to students living in poverty would help to counter some of the adverse circumstances they experience on a daily basis. However, it appears that the opposite occurs in the United States. Students from high poverty districts are more likely to go to schools that have inadequate resources and poorly trained teachers. As a result these students leave school without the skills needed to earn a living that would pull them out of the circumstances in which they grew up, thereby feeding the pattern of inequality of education, inequality of educational attainment, and inequality of labor marker earnings (Murnane, 2007).