Dropping out

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

High school students in Missouri currently can drop out when they turn 16. Under a law adopted by the just-ended session of the Missouri Legislature, they will now have to wait until they are 17 or have completed 16 units of academic work toward graduation.

One of the arguments for the higher age limit, some legislators said, is that another year of maturity might help students choose to get a high school diploma.

The dropout problem is severe in too many school districts. But there are so many factors beside age that contribute to that problem: students who move from district to district during the school year, parents who aren't engaged in their children's education, too much emphasis on federally mandated test scores rather than helping students who are struggling to keep up.

Some educators say the new age requirement for dropping out may prove to be more of a problem than a solution. Keeping students who are maturing into adults in school another year when they don't want to be there is not likely to have much of a positive effect.

Forcing students to stay in school may also have a negative effect on other students who apply themselves and take as much as they can from every class. Now their learning experience may be disrupted by disinterested students who demand too much attention from teachers.

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