Over 1.2 million students drop out of high school in the United States each year. 21 states and the District of Columbia have passed mandatory laws that allow students to stay in school even when they have passed the age of 16. However, the USA has passed a compulsory law that requires that all children attend school at least from the age of 5 until they are at the age of 16. Despite the mandatory law, school dropout rates are high, affecting the country's ability to ensure high literacy rates, reduce income disparities, and have more graduates. While it could be argued that raising the leaving age to 18 could solve these problems, this initiative has its drawbacks. The controversy behind the issue has led various researchers to assess the cost and benefits of allowing students to attend school past the age of sixteen.
For the past years, laws of school attendance have been implemented with the goals of improving educational attainment in America, reducing the number of students dropping out of school, and addressing problems of myopic youth. The laws also aimed at addressing parents who did not care whether their students stayed in or dropped out of school. The federal government set the compulsory school age limit that aimed at setting the minimum length of time that students must spend in school before they have a legal option to leave. The states were also given the mandate to set general laws that covered compulsory school attendance. The laws for age limits in education have been around for many decades, while others, such as compulsory education, have been around for more than a century. However, the laws have been upgraded periodically, sometimes being improved, and sometimes other elements being removed, depending on the particular need of each state in the county. Despite these changes, the general law in various states was that the youngest age at which students were allowed to leave school was 16, with some exceptions of states that have increased the age to 18. Former President Barack Obama in 2012 urged all states to allow students to attend school until they reach the age of 18. The national centers for education statistics reported that although the compulsory education of attending school has extended to 18 years in more than 20 states, a few states have placed exemptions that allowed students to stop attending school as long as they had their parent’s permission. These exemptions make it easy for students to drop out of school and not finish their diplomas, thus making the law that allowed children to attend school past the age of 16 irrelevant. Despite the intervention by former President Barack Obama to make school attendance compulsory up to the age of 18, the decision has been utterly left at the state level. This implies that some states may take it seriously and extend educational attendance, while others do not. This also brings problems, as it will be difficult to achieve the main goal of reducing dropouts in the country as a whole. However, the aim of compulsory education law in America is to ensure that students don’t walk away from their education before they get their diplomas. When students are not allowed to drop out of school, they do better.
Although the government has established laws that increase compulsory education up to the age of sixteen, it hasn’t been able to reduce the achievement gap for poor and minority students. This is because poor students drop out of school as they struggle between working to sustain a living and going to school. This was supported by Cornwell, who said that poorer parents rely on their students to produce income, as a result, they would foregoer school to do menial jobs that will bring extra income. Furthermore, parents who migrate to the United States with children who haven’t finished their high school education face challenges when they want to get into proper schools, which force them to forego school and end up attending private institutions or do homeschooling. As a result, students who drop out of school and fail to come back to school later in life because of age restrictions have been linked with various forms of life challenges. These include challenges such as criminal activities, lower-paying jobs, teenage pregnancy, ill health, divorce, and being unhappy. This has undoubtedly worsened the inequalities between the rich and the poor in the country. To tackle these social challenges, which can eventually manifest into economic problems, some experts believe that students should be allowed to attend school past the age of sixteen, for example by raising the dropout age to 18. Government must also create support structures that enable these students to succeed in school and achieve their diplomas.
If all states increase their minimum school leaving age above 16, students, parents and the country as a whole will benefit from several long-term outcomes, such as reduced crime rate, poverty, and equality. A growing body of research has suggested that increasing the school attendance age from 16 to 18 will improve the number of high school graduates and also close the achievement gap. It was found that when more effort is put to ensure that students keep engaged in school from an early age and effective support programs are created, the rate of graduates in the country will improve. If a child stays longer in school, there is nothing they do except to learn therefore, this improves their chances of being able to attain their diploma and get into college. By increasing the age of school attendance, the government will be strengthening the country’s educational system and promoting college attendance.
It will also promote career outcomes for young people and reduce the achievement gap. Improving the age of school attendance past the age of 16 will also help students to get life skills as schools can boost vocational programs and job training to help students to get closer to the job market. This will help those students who have failed to qualify for college. The strategy will also encourage teachers to invest more time and help to see each student as an achiever. Since schools will be allowing students to stay in school longer, students will also be able to learn important life skills that will enable them to be responsible citizens. Vocational training will help them to be entrepreneurs who have their own startups, thus reducing the unemployment rates in the country.
Increasing the age of school attendance past the age of 16 has also been linked to successfully improving the life of school dropouts. It was found that high school dropouts experience substantially worse life problems than their peers who remain in school as they face long-term problems. On average, a school dropout will earn less money, is more likely to be involved in criminal activities, is less healthy, and is less likely to be married. School dropouts also live unhappily than their peers who completed high school and graduated. This was supported by another study, which explained that skills and educational attainment are important in today’s economy as several jobs require candidates who are literate with at least a high school diploma. However, the dropouts face challenges. 16% of school dropouts are unemployed, and 32% live below the poverty datum line. Poverty increases because, on average, dropouts earn $12. 75 per hour and work in common jobs such as construction, food services, and landscaping industries. In such cases, the labor market remains bleak throughout their life. Increasing the school attendance age to 18 would reduce these long-term effects, as dropouts will be able to officially come back and enroll in school, thus improving their longevity outcome.
Increasing school attendance past the age of 16 has also been linked to reducing overall crime and incarceration rates. Compulsory schooling past the age of 16 will help to keep students occupied such that they will not have time to engage in criminal activities. One research has shown that students who leave school earlier are more likely to use cigarettes and illicit drugs than those who have stayed in school up to the age of 18. Also, it was explained that when students stay longer in school, they develop reasoning capacities and good cognitive capabilities that will help them to make wise decisions in life. This reduces any engagement in criminal activities and teen pregnancy. Therefore, if school attendance is increased from the age of 16 to 18, students will develop good cognitive capabilities that enable them to make wise decisions which will help them to avoid a life of crime.
Studies have also demonstrated that increasing the school leaving age from 16 improved the education attainment levels of the country. One study showed that for each year the dropout age was extended above the age of 16, the school attainment rate increased by 0.12 years per student. The results of the studies also showed that high school completion rates increase by 1.3 percent on average when the school leaving age was only increased from 16-17. The high school completion rate also increased by 2.4 percent when the school leaving age was increased to 18. In addition, raising the school leaving age also led to an increase in the number of students who enrolled in college. This is because students who stayed in school and completed their high school took advantage of the opportunities and finance available to pursue a college degree. Using the findings from the study, it can be seen that increasing the school attendance age from the age of 16 to 18 has positive effects on educational attainment.
Increasing the school-leaving age can also encourage adults to pursue higher education and adult education can also encourage teenagers to learn. When students are encouraged to stay in school longer, they will not see higher education as an obstacle in their life. This will increase the literacy level of the country as a whole. Therefore, it is important that the state examine the compulsory school attendance laws and ensure that they incorporate the disadvantaged. In doing so, the state will also be encouraging adult education, as the initiative will show that it is possible to attend school regardless of age or circumstances.
But there are also drawbacks. Economic evidence and research have pointed out that the cost and resource burdens of increasing school attendance past the age of 16 are overwhelming to schools, administrations, and states on a wider scale. Faced with such a situation, there is a need for evaluating whether such cost can be justified, as dropouts who were allowed back to school have been linked with violence and engaging in criminal activities while at school. By increasing the school attendance age, more truant officers and social workers will be needed. While it cannot be clear on the exact number of extra workers needed, accommodating thousands of students who have passed the age limit will entail direct costs. These include costs such as hiring new teachers, building schools, and increasing class sizes. A study carried out by Boozeman showed that per every student, the United States spends roughly $12,300 per year. If accommodating a student will cost this much, the state will pay an estimated amount of 25000 for the next two years that the child will still be in school. In reality, the cost of extending the age limit will be more than average calculations. This is because new schools and classrooms will have to be built in order to accommodate more students and those who were dropouts coming back to school. Apart from these direct costs, there are also indirect costs that the government has to bear which cannot be quantified. Some of the cost includes health and safety issues when schools that cannot build extra classrooms put students in a larger class to accommodate extra students. This can lead to the spreading of diseases and viruses, which can affect the overall well-being of students. In addition, students who remain in school because of the change in the law can be disruptive to their peers who will still be in school. This is especially true for dropouts who are allowed back to school after the age of 16, as they can be least enthusiastic and affect students who are already struggling. There are also concerns that the incidence of crime and violence in schools can increase because of the increased attendance of students who are unhappy and unwilling to go back to school. Finally, schools will have to divert resources that should have focused on improving the quality of education to hiring more teachers. More resources will also be channeled toward hiring more social workers and making sure that incidents of violence and crime at school are reduced.
In conclusion, allowing students to attend school past the age of 16 has been surrounded by a lot of controversy, however, this initiative has numerous benefits, not only to students but to the country as a whole. Over 1.2 million students drop out of high school in the United States each year. However, for the past years, laws on school attendance have been implemented with the goals of improving educational attainment in America, reducing the number of students dropping out of school, and addressing problems of myopic youth. The laws also aimed at addressing parents who did not care whether their students stayed in or dropped out of school. These laws and research have shown that increasing school attendance for those over the age of 16 has numerous benefits. These include benefits such as reduced crime rate, poverty, and achievement of equality. In addition, by increasing the age of school attendance to 18, the government will be strengthening the country’s educational system and promoting college attendance. In addition, when schools will allow students to stay in school longer, students will learn important life skills that will enable them to be responsible citizens. Vocational training will help them to be entrepreneurs who have their own startups, thus reducing the unemployment rates in the country. In addition, when students are encouraged to stay in school longer, they will not see higher education as an obstacle in their life. This will increase the literacy level of the country as a whole. However, this initiative has a financial burden on the schools and the government as well. This is because new schools and classrooms will have to be built to accommodate more students and those who were dropouts coming back to school. Despite these drawbacks, I believe that attending school past the age of 16 should be encouraged or made compulsory, as it has numerous benefits.