The Issue

The following video provides a succinct—and shocking—report on the impact of the dropout crisis in America.

Every year, 1 million students drop out of high school.

People without a high school diploma are:

  • Twice as likely to be unemployed
  • More likely to
    • Abuse drugs and alcohol
    • Become teenage parents
    • Live in poverty

3 out of 4 prison inmates are high school dropouts

In 2012, only 1.5 percent of America’s nearly 40 million dropouts took the GED® Test. (The 2012 Annual Statistical Report on the GED® Test provides demographic information by state.)

Adult basic education programs service 1.8 million of the 98 million who could benefit from services. There are waiting lists in most states. The 2014 Blue Book: The Legislator’s Resource Book prepared by the National Council of State Directors of Adult Educators provides information on each state’s success, impact, and need for adult education services.

“Opportunity Youth”

The Economic Value of Opportunity Youth, a research report prepared in 2012 by Queens College, City University of New York and Columbia University for the White House Council for Community Solutions, reported on the economic burden and lost opportunity of 6.7 million American youth aged 16 to 24 who are “neither enrolled in school nor participating in the labor market – they are not investing in their human capital or earning income.” Read More...

Having a high school diploma as well as an additional investment in human capital, such as college and job training, is essential for youths to make the transition to a productive life. Without those things, we know they are more likely to be un- or under-employed and suffer the other negative economic and personal consequences that occur because they dropped out of school and failed to transition successfully to adulthood. And, without intervention, those negative costs will continue throughout their lives .

“’Opportunity Youth’ are burdened, but so is society and so are taxpayers.”

At age 16, the annual taxpayer burden for each of the so-called “Opportunity Youth” is $13,900. The social burden is $37,450. In their lifetimes, they will inflict a tax burden of $258,240 and social burden of $755,900—each. Considered over the full lifetime of a cohort of 6.7 million opportunity youth who are aged 16-24, the aggregate taxpayer burden amounts to $1.56 trillion in present value terms. The aggregate social burden is $4.75 trillion. These costs ‘roll over’ each year because each year brings a new cohort of opportunity youth.”

Yes, these statistics are depressing. But at its heart, Dropping Back In delivers a hopeful message. The documentaries feature stories about educational outreach and job-training programs that have strong track records in helping young people get back on track to resuming their educations and acquiring the skills they need to become an asset to society and not a burden. Some of these are innovative partnerships between local businesses and job-training programs in which everyone benefits. Many of these programs can be replicated in other communities.

Another reason to hope and an opportunity to give to dropouts who are ready to drop back in is Fast Forward, a multi-platform learning program that includes an online study course for the new high school equivalency tests. A conservative estimate says that 80 percent of American dropouts can’t or won’t go to an Adult Education Center. Fast Forward provides an opportunity for self-paced, online learning. This type of self-directed, technology-based learning is an effective way to reach “Opportunity Youth” who, according to the White House report, In 2012, the average GED® test-taker was in his or her mid-20s and had attended school up to the 10th grade.

These experts on the economic and societal impact of dropouts in our community are featured in Dropping Back In. Click the image to see an extended version of their interviews:

Nadia Young

Dropped out or pushed out?

With schools being held accountable for their success (or failure) to graduate students, there have been documented case studies in which one way schools are choosing to raise graduation rates and test scores is to get rid of those students who are most likely to do poorly on tests and less likely to graduate. This excerpt from "More than a Statistic," the second program in Dropping Back In, educators, academics, and students talk about confronting an education system that doesn't always work in the best interest of students. Read More

DBI Discussion Panel

Dropping Back In Screening Event

Event coverage (non-broadcast) of the panel discussion following the screening of Dropping Back In, September 23, 2014, at the Louisville Free Public Library. Educators, business, and civic leaders, including two former dropouts, discuss the Dropping Back In series, the social and personal costs of the dropout crisis, and effective initiatives focused on dropout prevention and re-engagement.

Ron Ferguson

Ronald Ferguson, Ph.D.

Professor, Graduate School of Education, Harvard University, Boston, MA

Co-Director, Achievement Gap Initiative, Harvard University

Dr. Ferguson describes the current and future costs in America of having an under-educated population; he argues the need for career guidance for secondary students that includes options other than a four-year college degree. Read More

Victor Rios

Victor Rios, Ph.D.

Former dropout and gang member, currently a Professor of Sociology at the University of California at Santa Barbara, author of Punished: Policing the Lives of Black and Latino Boys.

Dr. Rios discusses his research in juvenile justice and the policing of America's schools, specifically the school-to-prison pipeline. He also talks about youth who are "pushed out" of school, rather than dropping out, and outreach efforts in that area.

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