Chris Ullmer, 30, of Harrison Twp., says he doesn't regret dropping out of high school during his junior year but said he and his wife Jennifer are going to do all that they can to make sure their three boys don't follow in his academic footsteps. "I'm more involved than my parents were," Ullmer said. "I make sure they are involved in their classes. We make sure that if they are doing something wrong, we help them out." Ullmer is shown at home with his oldest son Nathan II and youngest son Jackson, 3. PHOTO BY LISA POWELL
Photo: Lisa Powell
Photo: Lisa Powell

1 in 4 dropouts cite lack of parental help

A national survey indicates that lack of parental support and becoming a parent are the primary reasons young adults drop out of high school.

The U.S. Department of Education estimates that 7,000 kids drop out every school day. In Ohio, a state hit hard by the recession, educators recognize that many teens are dealing with issues at home, and are searching for more options to meet the needs of all students.

“The factors which affect student success in school are numerous and complex, but we’ve long known that parental support and personal challenges are important,” said David Estrop, superintendent of Springfield City School District. “That’s why we work so hard to offer options to meet students’ individual needs.”

Everest College, in partnership with Harris Interactive, conducted the 2012 High School Dropouts in America Survey in October and received feedback from 513 people between the ages of 19 and 35 who had dropped out of high school.

“Americans without a high school diploma or GED face tremendous challenges,” said John Swartz, regional director of Career Services at Everest. “This is why we need to continue putting our dropout crisis under the microscope and develop substantive solutions going forward.”

Local officials said one solution to fighting the dropout issue is for all school districts to provide at-risk students with more educational options, such as non-traditional school hours.

“One thing the public needs to understand, not every student fits a traditional school model. We need to have options for the students so that they can be successful,” said Michael Carter, superintendent of School and Community Partnerships for Sinclair Community College, the office that oversees the Fast Forward Center, a county-funded initiative that includes a network of alternative schools.

Testing makes it harder to graduate

Recovery or alternative schools also could offer options for students seeking their GED or who need to attend classes at a night in order to work during the day.

“Up until state testing, you could be a people-pleaser and get through school,” Carter said. “Standardized testing changed that. It wasn’t based on you behaving and getting out, it was based on performance as well.”

Another challenge to those who might be on the edge of dropping out is their socio-economic status and peers, according to Michael Calabrese, executive director of Opportunities for Individual Change of Clark County, which offers an alternative high school that targets low-income youth.

He pointed out that there are students who live in poverty and have to work to help support their families. Some students don’t attend school because their home environment doesn’t allow them maintain good hygiene or with the latest fashions.

“When you live in poverty, education becomes secondary because you are in survival mode,” Calabrese said. “School is 30 percent social. No one is harder on their peers than high schoolers.”

Local educators do recognize that providing options for their students cost money and that many school districts are struggling to keep programs they have, let alone implement new ones.

“The districts that need the extra services to help these kids are the ones who don’t have extra funding or sustainable funding,” Calabrese said.

It’s difficult to pinpoint Ohio’s dropout rate because the state doesn’t track that number, according to John Charlton, associate director of communications for the Ohio Department of Education.

Many education organizations tend to look at graduation rates to determine dropout rates, but there are many factors that influence those rates. For example, students who transfer or move out of state may be classified as dropouts at the district where they started., a high school dropout prevention campaign, reports that Ohio has a 20 percent dropout rate, compared to the national dropout rate of 28 percent.

“If that rate is accurate then we still have a lot of work to do,” Charlton said. “We are pleased that we are doing better than the national average, but I think that we can do better than 8 out of 10. Our goal would be 10 out of 10. It’s important that we focus on the individual student. We want every individual student to be successful.”

Dropouts make less money

High school success is important when considering that the U.S. Department of Education reported in 2010 that those without diplomas are less likely to succeed in the workforce, and that each year the U.S. loses $319 billion in potential earnings associated with the dropout crisis.

A high school graduate in Ohio makes an average of $7,650 more annually than a high school dropout, according to Jason Amos, director of communications for the Alliance for Excellent Education.

“High school graduates not only earn more than high school dropouts, they’re also more likely to be employed,” he said.

Nationally, the unemployment rate for high school dropouts is 12.2 percent. The unemployment rate for high school graduates is 8.4 percent, according to the U.S.Bureau of Labor Statistics.

A non-supportive home may be the main cause for dropouts, but there are other causes that are underneath that main cause that contributes to the lack of success,” Carter said.

Harrison Twp. resident Chris Ullmer said he and his wife, Jennifer, are very involved in the schooling of their three young sons because they don’t want them to follow in his academic footsteps.

Ullmer, 30, dropped out of Northridge High School at age 18 during his junior year after skipping numerous days of school, making low grades and run-ins with school administrators.

“I’m more involved than my parents were,” Ullmer said. “I make sure they are involved in their classes. We make sure that if they are doing something wrong, we help them out.”

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