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In America’s big cities, the high school dropout rate is as high as 50% and it’s not much better in rural areas either. Even though education is important as the first step towards getting a job that pays a decent wage, half of the kids who start high school as ninth graders don’t finish all the way to the end of their senior year. Why not?

Here are the main reasons why kids drop out:

They are older than other kids in their grade, either because they started late, were held back a year or two, or failed courses they had to repeat.

Some of these problems are within your control. You can help your kid figure out the credits he needs to graduate and make sure he gets those. You can help your child have high aspirations and realize that she can do great things if she just persists. You can make certain your teen feels welcome at home and do what you can to help him feel welcome at school.

Teens are short-sighted. They sometimes don’t see the value of high school and don’t realize how important a high school diploma might be in opening doors in the future. So you have to help your teen hang in there. But notice this: kids who drop out of school are not stupid. Instead, most dropouts are capable – even exceptional – kids, who needed more support than they got.

Kids who don’t complete high school aren’t necessarily doomed to the School of Hard Knocks. Hard work, pursuit of a passion, good social skills and a few lucky breaks can take a kid a long way.  Here are some famously successful people who dropped out of school:

But for every millionaire dropout there are a hundred who look back with regret. Deciding to stay in high school long enough to graduate is the first big decision most teenagers make, and they sometimes make the decision to drop out without really thinking. Do what you can to support and guide your teen.

Help your kid be a high school grad.

© 2012, Patricia Nan Anderson.  All rights reserved.