Drug Use. The use of drugs and the choice to drop out of school may share the same precursors, which could explain their relationship. Students who make these decisions typically demonstrate less of a commitment to school and family, and are characterized by lower psychological well-being. They experience poorer relationships with parents, stronger ties to their peers, worse grades, low self-esteem, and more negative attitudes about school (Mensch & Kandel, 1988).
Looking at this notion from an event history analysis may allow researchers to understand the characteristics that precede dropout and help them to control them in the future. Dropouts report a higher rate of drug use than their peers who choose to stay in school. Specifically, the use of cigarettes, marijuana, or other drugs at any age increases the likelihood that a student will drop out of school. As students become more frequent drug users and develop networks of friends who are also drug users, they become more likely to develop a lack of interest in academic issues. When they continue to associate with the same peers, they reinforce this belief system and lack of conformity to traditional institutional values. During this process their drug use may be further impairing their cognitive functioning and motivation, having a further negative impact on their commitment to school (Mensch & Kandel, 1988).
Race. Race is a strong determinant of a student’s likelihood to drop out of school. Minority students are more likely to leave school early than other students (Bloom, 2010). They are also more likely to experience contact with the legal system (Hirschfield, 2009). Further, minority students are more likely to be exposed to high-rates of crime and violence, compounding their circumstances, increasing the chances that they will become victims themselves (Black, et al., 1998).
Student Mobility. High levels of student mobility vary among students and schools, with the highest degrees of prevalence being from large predominantly minority districts and students of low SES. It is related to student misbehavior, youth violence, and can negatively impact student academic performance. Overall, transient students achieve on a lower level than their counterparts (Rumberger, 2003). There are many events that can be classified under the school mobility concept. These events include student being placed in special services then returning to his home school, expulsion, or involuntary transfer to another school then returning to the home school or another school attended in the past. (Osher, Morrison, & Bailey, 2003).
Exceptional Student Education Students. Exceptional Student Education (ESE) students complete high school at a lower rate than their counter parts. After school, they also are exposed to a higher possibility of negative adult outcomes (Kortering & Braziel, 2002). Learning Disabled (LD) students are especially susceptible because their intelligence and achievement levels suggest that academic success is not easy for them. Data supports the notion that there is an interrelationship between antisocial behavior, academic failure, and school climate (Kortering & Braziel, p. 187). EBD Emotional & Behavioral Disabilities (EBD) students fit into this category with their data demonstrating a similar trend. Seventy-three percent of EBD students who choose to drop out of school are arrested within three to five years (U.S. Department of Education, 1994; as cited in Osher, Morrison, & Bailey, 2003).
School and teacher influence plays a role in this process. Students who experience social supports that develop incentive and meaning, nurture personal skills, and provide adequate access to resources increase the likelihood that the student reacts positively to events in their lives. When those ties are weak, the student is more vulnerable and more likely to react negatively to chance events. Specifically, these actions include student placement, method of special education delivery, teacher bias, the degree and access to opportunities and resources, student involvement, academic rigor, and vocational options (Rojewski, 1999).
Poor Academic Performance. Student performance on competency exams indicates a relationship between their performance and the decision to drop out of school. These exams tend to have adverse effects on disadvantaged, at-risk students. Further, there is an inter-relationship between a student’s Grade Point Average (GPA), performance on competency exams, and a student’s decision to drop out of school (Griffin & Heidorn, 1996).