Latina Lista: News from the Latinx perspective > Life Issues > Children > New study shows most Latino students drop out of high school for economic need

New study shows most Latino students drop out of high school for economic need

LatinaLista — It’s estimated that there are 6.2 million high school dropouts in the nation. Contrary to what some say, it’s the high school dropouts who are fueling the rise in our prison populations according to a new study.



Consequences of Dropping out of High School: Joblessness & Jailing for High School Dropouts & The High Cost for Taxpayers details how while young Black high school dropouts are disproportionately represented in the penal and juvenile detention system, the problem cuts across racial lines.

Male dropouts of all races were 47 times more likely to be incarcerated than their peers of a similar age who had graduated from a four-year college or university.

An earlier report examining the dropout crisis found that of the 6.2 million high school dropouts, the vast majority are male, Black and Latino. The report’s authors recommend that instead of expanding prisons with new facilities, there should be more investment into programs that keep dropouts in school.

However, the findings of the study reflect two realities that exist in the Latino community: Latino students drop out to go to work or stay home because they’re pregnant.

The report’s authors uncovered the dismal job numbers of high school dropouts but when those numbers are broken out by ethnicity, it’s a surprise:

More than half — 54 percent — of the nation’s dropouts ages 16 to 24 were jobless on average during 2008. Black dropouts experienced the highest jobless rates at 69 percent followed by Asians at 57 percent and Whites at 54 percent. Hispanic dropouts had the lowest jobless rates at 47 percent, reflecting the higher employment rate of young Hispanic immigrants.

This information reflects what has long been known to happen among Latino youth, especially immigrant families. Most Latino boys don’t drop out of school to hang out on street corners — they do it to help provide for their families.

This reason is very hard to combat when trying to convince students that there is value in staying in school. When it comes down to a difference between helping feed the family and keeping a roof overhead, immediate need always wins out.

What’s needed to help with this situation is to provide flexible schedules to accommodate students who are balancing full-time jobs with school. Also, there must be an understanding with area employers that school comes first for their high school-age employees.

School districts can create a special recognition award and/or publish a list that identifies student-friendly employers. Such a list could be published in the local newspaper with the added incentive that these businesses would probably experience greater patronage from the community because of their inclusion on the list.

Also, greater effort from the community or school district should be made to see that high-risk students have Internet access at home in order to take online courses and/or complete and turn in assignments via e-mail.

Another reality in the Latino community is that those young Latinas who get pregnant and drop out of school, usually never get beyond a GED, if even that.

Nearly 38 percent of young female dropouts ages 16 to 24 were mothers, the highest percentage compared to their peers still enrolled in high school or college or with high school or college degrees. Young high school dropouts were nearly 9 times as likely to have become single mothers as their counterparts with undergraduate college degrees.

There are school districts that have created programs tailored to help young Latina mothers stay in school and finish their education.

During a conference call with representatives from the National Women’s Law Center discussing promising practices to improve Latinas’ graduation rates, Dr. Mary Jane Garza, Assistant Superintendent of West Oso School District in Corpus Christi, Texas explained how her school district has turned around the drop out numbers of young Latina mothers.

Dr. Garza feels the key to any successful intervention program is to analyze what policies are in place and if they include tracking the students — finding out why they leave school, why they are absent and if they transfer to another school district, making sure they arrive.

Dr. Garza said that her staff in talking to the students found that they needed transportation, child care and a flexible school schedule to be successful in staying in school.

The authors of the Consequences of Dropping Out report recommend that there be a national re-enrollment strategy as part of the nation’s education agenda.

Latina Lista also suggests that the age of the student also be taken into account and that educators be sensitive to the fact that some students may be over the traditional age for a particular grade level which adds to the embarrassment and feeling that school is not the place they want to be.

In these cases, a specialized curriculum should be implemented to get students either at grade level or in a routine where they will not just experience academic success but on their way to a successful future.

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  • Karen
    October 14, 2009 at 10:05 pm

    Do you think that some people drop out to get a job, or get pregnant because their schools are substandard and they figure that there is no point in staying?

  • irma
    October 15, 2009 at 9:48 am

    I think this is a problem that started with the family. I have several college degrees
    but also have a brother who dropped out of high school and became a parent at the age of 18. What was the difference between me and my brother? I am the oldest, he is the youngest. Our father died when I was in college, my brother was
    9 years old at the time. My mother became the sole breadwinner and parent.
    So, my brother did not have the security at home that I did . There was no one strong enough to rein him in. He got a job, not to help my mother out -he wanted a car.
    I suspect this happens a lot in many Latino families. It is great that some
    schools are willing to provide
    some help in bringing people like my brother back to school. This problem is one however that begins in the family – we cannot expect nor demand that public schools make accomodations for the special needs of these children who
    have decided be adults. What these
    children need is surrogate parental figures and that should be provided by
    other family members.

  • Marisa Treviño
    October 15, 2009 at 10:04 am

    Karen, In regard to your question I think it has more to do with expectations and treatment from educators at the school. In many studies, (Latino) kids who were polled cited their teachers or counselors as not having high expectations of them or not communicating with them at all. For other kids, who are undocumented, there have also been anecdotal information suggesting that these kids drop out or get pregnant because they know they really don’t have a future where they can either afford to go to college because of restrictions against them and/or they can’t work so why bother learning for something that will never be applied towards a good job. Of course, it’s shortsighted on their part but they are kids who are receiving no real encouragement.

  • Texan123
    October 22, 2009 at 5:52 pm

    Plenty of non Hispanic kids drop out too. You can not always blame the teachers. Many are dedicated and care about these kids. Others have given up the fight of trying to teach those who refuse to be taught.
    My oldest daughter dropped out. Said a counselor lied to her about classes to take to graduate early. It is rebellion and defiance that causes these kids to quit. They think they are smarter than the kids who study. They hang out together smoking pot and doing nothing all day while other kids are taking tests and behaving themselves at school.
    What really angers me is that a parent has to withdraw a child from school before that child can take a GED test. If that option was not available to kids, maybe a few more would stay and graduate instead of getting a “Good Enough Diploma”.
    Sometimes it does not matter how much the child is loved, how much the parents and teachers encourage their children. Sometimes the kids just go their own way too early. By the time they realize the mistake it is too late.
    Their are GED programs and trade skills programs out there. It takes hard work and determination to make something worthwhile of yourself. Quitters are always quitters when they are actually expected to DO SOMETHING, like work, to succeed.

  • Angel
    October 25, 2009 at 7:43 pm

    “Karen, In regard to your question I think it has more to do with expectations and treatment from educators at the school. In many studies, (Latino) kids who were polled cited their teachers or counselors as not having high expectations of them or not communicating with them at all.”
    I’m sure that the kids that were polled were probably well informed by Latino advocacy groups that it isn’t their fault that they fail. Some political groups and lawyers would be glad to blame society for all of their ills. The macho Latino community leaders will never admit that parents have failed. It will always boil down to teachers low expectations. It’s funny how Asian students sitting in the same classroom will excel despite low expectations. Maybe it’s the level of expectation of parents, the role models for the students that cause Latinos to fail. I wonder if Latino students were asked about their parents expectations they would answer truthfully. When I went to college, the first thing the school did was inform us that they were not surrogate parents. They were right. Parents will always have more influence over children, but will never receive the criticism that they are due, as long as there is someone else to blame.

  • arthur yanez
    November 11, 2009 at 4:00 pm

    What do you think must happen to keep students in school? I’m a prevention educator for a agency in houston, tx. I’m currently providing prevention to truant students. I think the community as a whole needs to take part in the lives of the students. The students didn’t get where there at on their own.

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