Heed the Dropout Warning Signs

By Davis Sliver, Ron Dietel, and Marisa Saunders

A student drops out of school in the U.S. every 60 seconds. In large urban cities such as Los Angeles, Detroit, Baltimore, Milwaukee, and Las Vegas, more than 50 percent of students fail to graduate with their peers, according to a 2008 study by Editorial Projects in Education.

High schools often take much of the blame for failing to graduate more than 700,000 students each year, but the warning signs are readily apparent by middle school. Our study of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), for example, showed that middle school course failures, absences, and being over-age for a grade level substantially contributed to the district’s 52-percent high school dropout rate.

Here are some of the key middle school risk factors, followed by suggestions for what you can do to reduce the number of dropouts in your own district or school.

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