IntroductionSouthwest Mississippi is one of the regions with a significant number of rural schools in America (NCES, 2009). The rural district schools in the US are defined based on their locale, where according to the 2000 Decennial Census; about 30% of public schools were classed as rural schools (NCES, 2009). The schools under rural district category are often located in a territory five miles from a nearby urbanized area. From Lee et al. (2000), the rural schools are often characterized with instances of dropouts that can be explained by various elements internal and external factors. Dropout among students can be attributed to various factors within and outside the learning environment. In Paik and Phillips (2002), understanding students disengagement or dropout process, one has to consider the complexities that surround learners. From Swanson (2003), various dropout elements can be realized at different grades and levels like demanding classwork, restrictive curriculum content, strict school structure, or difficulty in the whole learning process or within different domains. The forms of school disengagement evident in a student can either be emotional, cognitive or behavioral (NCES, 2007).
Based on Paik and Phillips (2002), the various disengagement levels do intersect at specific points, which can put the student at more risk, like poor school connectedness and underperformance in class. Such an illustration indicates that variable can be measured in several ways since it can either be an outcome or a process. For example, frequent absenteeism of a student is likely to develop into school disengagement, while it is a risk factor among the disengagement indicators. According to Johnson et al. (2010), the instructional frameworks have direct input on the students conduct towards staying or leaving high school at an early phase.
Rural Learning Environment PerspectiveIn Southwest Mississippi, the minority students in the rural areas are the blacks, African Americans. According to a national survey conducted by Farmer et al. (2006), about 45% of the rural schools population did not manage to score high grades due to the featured high rates of poverty from the poor, minority youth characteristic of the African-Americans. The students could not perform well in their end-year exams exposing them to the danger of dropping out of school before completion. Farmer et al. (2006) confirms that such schools are concentrated in the South and Southwest, which covers Southwest Mississippi High School. In the American population, about 6 million students are involved in interschool transfers annually as explained by Paik and Phillips (2002). The annual student mobility rate is higher in the rural district school than in the city schools.
According to Paik and Phillips (2002), the high rate of change between schools yearly is influenced by the family income levels, where students from low-income families are likely to transfer compared to moderate-high income earners. Among the students who prefer frequent school transfer, a behavioral problem is likely to be encountered in addition to weaker academic performances and low graduation rates. In Lee and Smith (2000), the provisions are likely to increase the withdrawal of the individual from learning to lead to a dropout.
Leithwood and Jantzi (2009) show that few people would deny the influence of education in enhancing change or developing the capabilities of different individuals in the population. Through the education programs, different levels of student engagement and disengagement have been reported. However, despite the internal or external factors that might trigger an individual to drop out of school, education is considered a right of every child. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (2009), students rights for education has been enforced by various laws and policies that ensure every child is enrolled and attends a particular learning institution. Across different districts, schools are regarded as one of the most stable institutions due to the presence of broad educational policies that govern the engagement of students to school (Kim et al., 2011). In Lee and Smith (2000), high rates of student retention can be realized in different learning centers by the end of every academic year.
According to Raftery et al. (2012), the retention rate in school is about 91%, which shows a significantly high level of engagement with disengagement attributed to 9%. The smaller percentage of disengaged students have demonstrated various reasons for their decision to leave the school at such an early stage in poverty as the most prevalent. More so, from National Center for Education Statistics (2009), more males were likely to drop out from school than females in rural areas.
Leithwood and Jantzi (2009) show that high-school students have various reasons for engaging or disengaging at school, which is driven by their experiences, attitude, guidance, individual participation, and involvement with the school. According to a past survey, students have indicated high levels of engagement in school due to various internal and external factors (NCES, 2009). For example, personal safety in the institution is deliberated upon as a place in which the learner is listened to and respected helping in the strengthening of the engagement relationship. In Lee and Smith (2000), the student responded that families are often overlooked in showing their involvement at school showing that engagement is more enhanced through personal decisions and feelings that influence from family background.
According to Johnson e al. (2010), instructors seem to have a little consensus on the level of engagement or disengagement of the student towards school. In Lee and Smith (2000), it is clear that teachers have the obligation of producing a sufficient environment for education, through the pedagogy, streaming, context-setting or curriculum. From Reynolds and Wolfe (1999), it has been noted that the establishment and maintenance of the relationship between the instructor and the student are vital in determining the students level of engagement. From Reeves (2003), inadequate associations have been studied on the influence of parents towards their student engagement. For Lee et al. (2000), the students attitudes, behavior, and value for education can be replicated in their next generation.
Students At-Risk: School DisengagementIn Leithwood and Jantzi (2009) study, the disengaged learners are vulnerable to a wide range of adverse social and academic outcomes due to the prevalence of adverse characters. For example, frequent absenteeism, disruptive behaviors, and poor school connectedness that is associated with low school achievements. Student behaviors have a significant correlation with the school disengagement due to the experiences gained by the student that will dictate progression of dropout (Reschly et al., 2012).
Based on the National Center for Education Statistics (2007), the association between engagement and achievement appeared to be reciprocated, cyclical and reinforced over periods, while low achievements or underperformance is attributed to unfavourable outcomes or accelerate the process of disengagement. In Lee and Smith (2000), high-school learners who are evident to leave school early before completing the required level exhibit the consequences of long-term disengagement over a given time. According to Wolfson et al. (2003), it is suggested that the school management together with parents or guardians assist in the early identification of the problem-related school disengagement.
According to Leithwood and Jantzi (2009), the significance of student dropout rates cannot be undermined in the society since it has negative implications for the future life of the disengaged students. The trajectory of the disengaged students can be quite discouraging because most school drop-outs have limited opportunities to find better jobs or secure incomes. From Swanson (2003), the affected individuals are at risk of unemployment, low incomes, risky health behavior, involvement in the crime, and social exclusion among others (Kim et al., 2011).
According to a survey by Johnson (2006), the young adults from the black populations are likely to start their own families without accumulating the necessary resources needed for supporting their children. The study is supported by Jackson (2010), which indicates that the youths will experience the same difficulties they encountered in schooling increasing the chances of disengagement. Through Leithwood and Jantzi (2009), the situation can be reversed, where individual students are likely to have a self-filling life after leaving the school, especially in talent demonstration and realization. From Reeves (2003), student engagement in school is highly significant compared to disengagement especially when closing the gap of disadvantage from intergenerational persistence.
The National Center for Education Statistics (2009) ascertains that student disengagement has a strong association with external factors, like family or home setting, where the economic, social, or emotional support given to the learner matters in ensuring academic accomplishment. For example, Leithwood and Jantzi (2009) show that high school students from poor or disadvantaged backgrounds are likely to show consistency in the level of school disengagement compared to those from wealthy families. The high school students are more exposed at risks of experiencing more than one of school disengagement. In Lee and Smith (2000), the indicators of school disengagement include students from families with limited social, psychological and human resources, little readiness to learn, frequent absenteeism, and disconnection with the school environment, peers or teachers.
In Lee et al. (2000), the existence of chronic illnesses, mental or disability issue will increase the early school dropout since the learner will have difficulty in catching up with the rest of the student population. From Johnson et al. (2010), the location of the high school matters since students from rural areas have high chances of disengaging with learning as opposed to those dwelling in urban centers and towns.
Students Perception Towards Dropping OutIn considering the perception of individual students towards the dropping out of school, various factors can be examined. According to Lewis et al. (2014), social risk factors are vital in the determination of the students perspective on leaving school because the construct of risk is derived from personal characterization. Social risks include the demographic elements that are related to higher chances of facing difficulties in learning, like race, family incom...
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