'Don't Call Them Dropouts'

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A smiling young woman.

Studies have shown that youth who do not graduate from high school face a host of barriers. They are more likely than their peers to become unemployed or unemployable, experience homelessness, get pregnant, and become involved in the juvenile justice system.

So, how do we help more young people graduate? For starters, says a recent report from America's Promise Alliance and its Center for Promise at Tufts University, don't call them dropouts. 

The report encourages readers to rethink the way we talk about youth who've left school early. Calling them "nongraduates" or describing their situation as "interrupted enrollment" enables educators and youth service professionals to focus on how to get youth on track, rather than what went wrong.

About 200 young people from 16 high-poverty, urban communities participated in the study, which highlights the factors that explain why youth leave high school and the types of support they need to return to—and stay in—school. Youth voices feature prominently in the report. One young person said, “I do need an education in this society unfortunately to excel to places I want to be. Eventually, I found this place, [program], and I feel like this a great school system. It’s not traditional but it’s a good place for misfit kids or kids that can’t work well in the traditional schools and just belong here. That’s what we are all here for because we ain’t working well in traditional society or school.”

Read “Don’t Call Them Dropouts: Understanding the Experiences of Young People Who Leave High School Before Graduation.”

Watch the accompanying documentary.

Publications discussed here do not necessarily reflect the views of NCFY, FYSB or the Administration for Children & Families.

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