Typically, a student’s labeled as a dropout if they’re over the age of 18 and haven’t completed high school. But that classification might not exactly tell the full story.
Each state’s dropout definition, along with the national definition, can be slightly different.
In Ohio, a student’s a dropout if they:
- Leave school due to truancy, getting a job, or being over 18 years old
- Move to another area and aren’t in school
- Complete class requirements, but don’t pass the Ohio Graduation Test
In 2010, more than 23,000 students dropped out across the state, according to a report released late last year by the Ohio Education Research Center.
But it’s relatively easy for those numbers to get a little skewed in a handful of ways.
“The dropout rate is inflated by what you might call a life course perspective,” said Joshua Hawley, the executive director of Ohio Education Research Center.
Over the course of a lifetime students can enroll back into school several times or eventually earn their GED, Hawley explained.
The Ohio Department of Education doesn’t technically track a student once they leave school. Instead, they track dropout events, which occur when someone leaves school for one of the reasons listed above.
The ODE tends to focus on the state’s graduation rate, or the number of students graduating every year. But the graduation rate and the dropout rate aren’t actually inverses of each other–each rate is found using a different formula.
“There’s dropouts of every demographic,” said Colleen Wilber, Vice President of Media Relations for the non-profit America’s Promise Alliance. “We have kids dropping out from every race, every class, every part of society.”
As far as who’s dropping out in Ohio, African American students are more likely to drop out in ninth grade, but white students are more likely to drop out by twelfth grade. And students living in urban areas are more than six times more likely to drop out than their urban and suburban peers.