Most Dropouts Leave School Due to Boredom, Lack of Encouragement, Report Finds

Most students who drop out of high school say they could have succeeded with more challenging course work, engaging classroom experiences, and access to extra help, a new report from Civic Enterprises finds.

Commissioned by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the report, The Silent Epidemic: Perspectives of High School Dropouts, found that nearly 50 percent of 470 dropouts surveyed said they left school because their classes were boring and not relevant to their lives or career aspirations. A majority indicated that schools did not motivate them to work hard, and more than half dropped out with just two years or less to complete their high school education. In addition, two-thirds of those surveyed indicated that they would have worked harder to graduate if their schools had demanded more of them and provided the necessary academic and personal supports to help them succeed. Others said that as they grew older, having more freedom and other distractions draw them away from school.

According to the report, approximately one million students drop out every year, while nearly half of all African Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans fail to graduate. Dropouts are more likely than high school graduates to be unemployed, in poor health, to live in poverty, in prison, or on public assistance, and their children, in turn, are more likely to drop out.

In urging a national effort to educate Americans on the severity of the country's dropout problem, the report recommends that communities offer students a variety of options to meet their needs, engage parents, create "early warning systems" for at-risk students, and make sure all students have an adult advocate. It also calls for more accurate tracking of dropouts, better incentives under federal law to provide additional support for low-performing students, and raising the state compulsory school age to 18.

"As we work to improve our nation's high schools for all students, it is vital for us to consider the insights and reflections of the young people who were failed by our schools," said Jim Shelton, program director of the Gates Foundation's education division. "Our education system needs to respond by ensuring all students — no matter where they go to school — have access to a challenging, relevant, and supportive education to ensure their success in this tough new economy."

To read or download the complete report (44 pages, PDF), visit:

"New Report Illuminates America's "Silent" Dropout Epidemic." Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Press Release 03/02/2006.