Why They Shouldn't Be Called "Dropouts"

Photo:  thinkprogress.org

From the moment Luis E. Mateo started high school in Lowell, Massachusetts, almost ten years ago, he never felt safe. He remembers being bullied almost immediately—first for simply being a scrawny freshman, and later because of his race. Meanwhile, his home life was chaotic; he and his mother frequently fought.

“It was like, ‘where do I belong?’” he said. “I didn’t have support from [school] friends, and didn’t have support when I came home.”


Mateo went to the guidance counselor’s office a couple of times to address the bullying, but says he only felt lectured there. One day, after a blowup with his mother, Mateo says she kicked him out of the house. The next day, he got in a physical fight with one of his bullies. That’s when he went to the guidance office and announced that he was leaving school. The counselor urged him to stay, but it was too late.

Mateo’s experience reflects many of the voices in “Don’t Call Them Dropouts,” a new report released Tuesday by America’s Promise Alliance, based on research conducted by the Center for Promise at Tufts University. Culled from in-depth interviews with 200 young people and nationwide surveys from 2,000 people ages 18-25, the study is the largest of its kind about teens who don’t earn a high school diploma—about 20 percent of kids who enter high school.

The study found that young people leave school not because of a single event but due to a confluence of factors, including a violent home life, an incarcerated parent, or homelessness. Sixty-six percent of these young people experienced from three to 12 of these challenges, with almost one-quarter experiencing at least six.

Jonathan Zaff, executive director of the Center for Promise, said the problem isn’t that these kids lack grit—it’s that they become overwhelmed and often find themselves without support. If there was one predictive question, he said, it was, “Is there an adult in your community you can turn to for help?”

Jonathan Zaff, executive director of the Center for Promise, said the problem isn’t that these kids lack grit—it’s that they become overwhelmed and often find themselves without support. If there was one predictive question, he said, it was, “Is there an adult in your community you can turn to for help?”

“If the answer was no, [the young person] was much more at risk,” said Zaff. “It’s crucial to have several adults in their lives who can guide them and support them and have expectations for them.”

For the full story:  http://www.nbcnews.com/news/latino/authors-booksellers-national-bookexpo-lacks-diversity-n115496

For study summary and download:  http://gradnation.org/report/dont-call-them-dropouts

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