Facing the School Dropout Dilemma


The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child states that every child has the right to an education that develops their “personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential.” According to the Alliance for Excellent Education (AEE) (2011), an estimated 1.3 million American high school students drop out every year; a disproportionate number of whom are youth of color.

The nation’s children are its future workers, citizens, and leaders. Education remains the major tool by which people become empowered and the economic, social, and personal well-being of all citizens in a pluralistic society increases. A high dropout rate diminishes the pool of qualified people from diverse backgrounds who will enter the professional and political ranks that make important public policy decisions (APA, 1996). The mission for every school should be to educate students to equip them to become “knowledgeable, responsible, socially skilled, healthy, caring, and contributing citizens” (Greenberg et al., 2003).

The fact that so many students never complete high school has a deep and wide-ranging impact on the U.S.’s long-term economic outlook. The U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) (2011) reports that the median income of persons ages 18 through 67 who had not completed high school was roughly $25,000 in 2009. At current rates, a significant segment of the population will remain entrenched in poverty while on a global scale the competitiveness of the American labor force will continue to lag behind.

APA has a longstanding commitment to school dropout prevention as is evident from its 1996 resolution on the topic (APA, 1996) (PDF, 18KB).