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Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources

Parents can help curb school drop out

STILLWATER, Okla. – While the holiday season can bring lots of good cheer, it is also about the time of year some Oklahoma students may be on the verge of making the unhappy decision to drop out of school.

“The decision to drop out is more of a process, rather than a single event,” said Ron Cox, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension family science specialist. “Making sure your kids’ physical and emotional needs are met, as well as staying closely involved in their lives are all things we can do as parents to steer kids away from doing something so drastic.”

Research indicates the dropout rate tends to spike right around the ninth or 10th grade and just after the holiday break. The result of long-term academic and social disengagement, dropout is fueled by a variety of academic, personal and family factors, Cox said.

But, taking care of seemingly small, but important details such as getting kids’ eyesight and teeth checked regularly, making sure they feel safe at school and ensuring they get enough sleep, can go a long way in heading off some of the factors that contribute to dropout.

“Kids who can’t see the board fall behind in their studies and get frustrated with school. Tooth decay can be severely painful and disrupt kids’ concentration. It’s also hard to concentrate or stay awake if you’re short on sleep,” Cox said.

It is critical for parents to keep an eye on the emotional well-being of their children, too. Kids who are bullied or who do not feel like they fit in socially can have a difficult time in school. As a result, they may struggle academically or engage in risky behaviors such as drug and alcohol use.

Moving residences or changes within the family structure can negatively affect children and youth.

Transitions are very hard on young people, said Cox, who noted this is part of the reason youth drop out of school about the time they are moving from junior high to high school.

Furthermore, changing residences even once can have an impact on a child’s academic performance, and that risk increases with each additional move.

“When there is a divorce, remarriage, a severe illness or death or even just multiple adults moving in and out of the house, children are more likely to struggle with their school work,” Cox said. “Even family changes that occur as early as first grade have been found to significantly impact whether a child later drops out of school.”

Even when multiple risk factors exist for kids to drop out, there are things parents can do to offset those factors.

For instance, set high expectations, make sure homework is finished and kids arrive at school on time and talk to them about school activities. It is also a good idea for parents to visit the school and speak with teachers.

“Encourage your child,” Cox said. “Don’t be shy about recognizing their efforts and accomplishments. Praise them when they work hard.”





Oklahoma State University, U.S. Department of Agriculture, State and Local Governments Cooperating: The Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, national origin, religion, gender, age, disability, or status as a veteran, and is an equal opportunity employer.



Leilana McKindra
Communications Specialist
Agricultural Communications Services
140 Agriculture North
Oklahoma State University
Stillwater, OK 74078
Phone: 405-744-6792
Fax: 405-744-5739

Oklahoma State University - Stillwater, OK 74078