Some think students drop out at random, rarely signaling that they are in distress. In fact, dropping out is most often predictable. Starting in elementary school, students follow identifiable patterns. Key indicators that a student is at high risk are poor attendance, behavior problems, multiple F’s and grade retention.

A recent report issued by the America’s Promise Alliance points out that students at high risk include those who: miss a month or more of school in the primary grades; enter 3rd grade without strong reading skills; and lack positive school experiences, as evidenced by behavior problems.

But the report notes that it’s during the middle grades and the first two years of high school when we can identify the majority of students at highest risk of dropping out unless we provide sustained intervention. In those years especially, it’s urgent to pay attention to the ABC’s of dropout prevention—attendance, behavior, and course performance.

  • Attendance—6th to 10th graders who miss 10, 20, or more days of school are sending increasingly loud distress signals.
  • Behavior—middle and high school students who get suspended need support to stay on track, but so do those who consistently misbehave or lack effort.
  • Course performance—middle and high school students who receive an F, particularly in math or English, or two or more F's in any course are falling off the graduation path. D's and very low GPAs are also cause for concern.

Others at-risk are teens not promoted to the next grade. Significantly over-age for their grade, many need options tailored to their unique circumstances.