Dropout Students

Dion Ginanto


It is very shocking to me as an international student knowing the fact that four out of 10 students in Detroit do not graduate from high school. Each year, more than half a million young people drop out of high school, which has been the same rate for the last 30 years(Dynarski et.al, 2008). As a student from Indonesia, I used to think that the dropout student is a serious problem only in the country. After watching the video about dropout students in Detroit and reading some articles about preventing the dropout cases, I now realize that dropout prevention has become a worldwide concern. This article discusses the analysis of the video entitled Detroit Tackles Dropout Crisis by Engaging Students, Parents, as well as another approach of preventing dropout from my perspective.

The video by American Graduate is about the effort to solve the issue of dropout students in Detroit by conducting two approaches: parents and students. The approaches to engage parents in order to avoid students’ failure are by conducting the parental calls, parental visits, and parental workshops. Meanwhile, the approach conducted to engage students is by creating voluntary students’ programs and increasing a positive school climate. Before discussing further about the prevention efforts, I would first consider what actually causes the dropout students rate.

Balfanz, Herzog and Mac Iver (2007) focus on the students’ disengagements in order to combat the dropout cases. They define student disengagement as “a higher order factor composed of correlated subfactors measuring different aspects of the process of detaching from school, disconnecting from tis norms and expectations, reducing effort and involvement at school, and withdrawing from a commitment to school and to school completion” (p. 224). There are some factors causing student disengagement: attendance, academic achievement, suspensions, behavior grades, and status variables–being either special education or English Language Learner (Balfanz, Herzog and Mac Iver, 2007). In line with this, Dynarski et. al (2008) viewed increasing student engagement as critical to preventing dropping out, since dropping out typically occurs during high school; however,  disengagement process may begin much earlier and include academic, social, and behavioral components. Rumberger (2011) in Cooper (2013) identified some dropout causes:

Individual perspective (academic engagement, social engagement, goals, self perceptions, poor academic achievement, failed courses, retention grade, student mobility, course taking history, absenteeism, discipline problem, deviance, working more than 20 hours/week, pregnancy, and poor health), and Institutional perspective (family and community engagement, family/community SES, relationship with parents, parenting style, family structure, family resources, students composition of school, school resources and students/size, school process and practices, academic and social climate of school, peer group, and access to recourses in the community) (p. 27).

Parent-Based Approach

Approaching parents is very crucial to anticipate the dropout students. In the Detroit Tackles Dropout Crisis by Engaging Students, Parents movie, one of the teacher named Michelle Shorter made a phone call to the parent not only informing them of the bad news about their kids, instead, she called to let the parents know that their kid is doing well in school. Michelle Shorter explains in the video that rewarding the kids both at home and at school can trigger the students’ motivation. In addition, the action done by Detroit Parent Network (DPN) needs to be spread everywhere. DPN is not only giving support to the parents about the academic matters, but also giving workshops about financial literacy, career counseling, and leadership skills, as well as food baskets and other goods. This assistance is really needed by the parents, especially low-income parents. In line with this, Dynarski et. al (2008) recommended parental involvement as one of their suggestions regarding to dropout prevention. The adult (teacher and administrator) should be responsible for addressing academic and social needs, communicating with families and advocating students. The adult and students should have time to meet regularly (Dynarski et.al 2008).

Student-Based Approach

The second approach to prevent the failure of the students graduation is a student-based approach. Romeo High School’s efforts to involve the students based on their interests are very effective. Katelyn Morris, one of the students who almost dropped out school, admitted that by joining some voluntary programs at school, she felt more motivated and also made new friends who could help her. Dynarski et.al (2008) asserted that schools can help students identify, understand, and self-regulate their emotions and interactions with peers and adults. Meanwhile, Balfanz, Herzog and Mac Iver (2007) recommend three main areas of focus intervention in term of a student-based approach: attendance, behavior, and course failures. Another important recommendation by Dynarski et.al (2008), regarding to student-based approach is by providing academic support and enrichment to improve academic performance. This assistance can help student improve academic performance and reengage to school.

Teacher-Based Approach 

Both approaches (students and parents) from the short film are considered effective. However, there is another approach, which is also important to consider: teacher-based approach. The elements in school that can determine the students’ engagement are teachers. Positive school climate can be achieved if the teachers can create a positive classroom climate. Balfanz, Herzog and Mac Iver (2007) asserted that the reformation of the roles, skills, and outlooks of the adults who teach or administer in the schools and the improvement of middle-grade instructional materials and pedagogy are considered strategies to improve student engagement. The dropout recommendation number five written by Dynarski et.al (2008) is also effective: “Personalize the learning environment and instructional process (school wide intervention).” This recommendation is very important since a personalized learning environment creates a sense of belonging and fosters a school climate where students and teachers can get to know one another and can provide academic, social and behavioral encouragement (Dynarski et.al., 2008). Teachers will stand on the front line in personalizing the learning environment, therefore increasing teacher skills is very important as an effective way to prevent dropouts.

All in all, the film entitled “Detroit Tackles Dropout Crisis by Engaging Students, Parents” has been advocating positives approaches in dealing with dropout students in Detroit. The case in Detroit can be a model of combating dropout problems, not only in the United States of America but also for countries around the world. The student- and parent-based approach in the film has been proven effective; however, by adding the teacher approach, I believe this will make the efforts more effective in combating the dropout rate. Therefore, the effects of the dropout crisis identified by Orfield (2004) in Cooper (2014) :

1. Are four times as likely to be on welfare; 2. Face higher rates of unemployment over their lifetime; 3. Have a higher likelihood of serving time in prison; 4. Are more likely to go without health insurance or pension plans; 5. Are likely to lead less healthy and shorter lives; and 6. Face lower average earnings; can be avoided (p.23),

can be avoided. All elements at school, especially the school leader needs to have a strong commitment to realize these three approaches.


Cooper, Kristy. (2013). Students at risks for dropping out from school (Chapter C). A class presentation. Michigan: Michigan State University.

Dynarski, M., Clarke, L., Cobb, B., Finn, J.,Rumberger, R. Smink, J. (2008). Dropout prevention practice guide. Institute of Education Sciences. (NCEE 2008-4025).

Balfanz, R., Herzog, L., Mac Iver, D.J., (2007). Preventing student disengagement and keeping students on the graduation path in urban middle-grades schools: Early identification and effective interventions. Educational Psychologist, 42(4), 223-235.

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