Today, more than ever before, there is significant emphasis put on education. College is the new high school, and graduate school is the new college. The state of our economy only further enhances competition for people (at any level) and makes entering the work field that much harder for recent graduates (regardless of how much education they have received). Surprisingly, our nation continues to see incredibly high drop-out rates amongst high school students. In order to receive honest answers directly from high school students, I conducted an anonymous survey of twenty students from Monte del Sol Charter School and was very surprised by the results.
Parental & Peer Influence. Nineteen out of twenty respondents said their parents stress to them the importance of finishing high school. Eighteen respondents said they intend on attending a four-year college or university after the completion of high school. Of the eighteen who said they were planning on going to college, seventeen of those said they would go to college even if their parents were not supportive of their decision. Many students explained this reasoning with comments such as, "I want to accomplish my own goals," "It's my life, not theirs!" and other independent-minded statements.
When asked, "Do those you surround yourself with (that is, your friends) influence your decision to stay in school?" twelve respondents answered yes. This suggests that, by dropping out of school, students will feel a sense of failure both academically and socially. Overall, parental and peer influence seems to be a significant factor in whether or not young people finish high school, as well as in their decision to attend college.
Goals and Dreams. Based on the statistics mentioned above, many of the young people surveyed are persistent in both finishing high school and attending college. When asked, "What personal goals/dreams motivate you to graduate from high school?" seventeen of those surveyed answered to attend college or college and graduate school. The three remaining respondents answered to prove to peers and/or family their accomplishments. It is refreshing to see a majority of young people enthusiastic about higher education, but these results are contradictory to the first question on the survey, which asked, "Recent national statistics show high school graduation rates dropping significantly. Based on your school and the community in which you live, do you feel this is true?" An astonishing fifteen of twenty respondents said yes. Although most of the young people surveyed said they intended on graduating high school and attending college, they also stated that they felt drop-out rates at their school and in their community are considerably high.
A Change in Attitude. It isn't very surprising that young people are opinionated, but many of the reasons given for why respondents' friends had dropped out of high school require a shift in attitude for young people and the educations they receive. When explaining why their peers had dropped out of high school a few of the reasons included, "Gave up," "Too lazy," "He didn't feel like school mattered," and "He hated the teachers." However, the following question on the survey was, "What thing(s) would you change about your school in order to make you more interested in learning at its institution?" six students requested new extra-curricular activities (i.e. new sport, new after-school club, etc.), thirteen students requested access to more academic help (i.e. tutoring, study groups, SAT/ACT preparation, etc.), and one student requested the requiring of school uniforms to eliminate pressures of fitting in. The specific requesting for more services at school shows that there is a desire to learn, but that the current methods may not be working for a majority of the students.
The Future. I was unexpectedly surprised that 90 percent of the students surveyed plan to attend a four-year college or university after the completion of high school. Despite whether or not all of the students end up going to college, the intention of wanting to receive a higher education exists. If anything, the surveys conclude that young people have the motivation and foresight to achieve their academic dreams and goals, but certain systems and methods have to be altered in a manner that works best for them.
Special thanks to the students of Monte del Sol Charter School in Santa Fe, NM