Preventing School Failure, Truancy & Dropout

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  • 0:03 School Failure,…
  • 1:08 Negative Effects
  • 2:35 Prevention
  • 5:47 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Dana Dance-Schissel

Dana teaches social sciences at the college level and English and psychology at the high school level. She has master's degrees in applied, clinical and community psychology.

School failure, truancy, and dropouts are a problem for many adolescent students. This lesson will discuss the negative effects of these issues and explore strategies for preventing them.

School Failure, Truancy, & Dropouts

Do you remember how it felt to be absent from school due to illness or some other circumstance? It might be kind of nice at first, but then when you realize how much work you are missing, you begin to feel behind and stressed. It's usually not as pleasing. Can you imagine missing day after day of school? How would you ever catch up? Your grades would probably suffer in your absence, wouldn't they? You might even feel like giving up.

These issues are all too common among adolescents in schools. School failure, truancy, and dropouts are linked to one another in terms of outcomes. School failure occurs when students are not able to complete their work with a passing grade. Truancy is an unexcused absence from school. A dropout happens when the student gives up and withdraws from school without completing the requirements for graduation.

Now that we understand what school failure, truancy, and dropouts are, let's take a closer look at their negative effects with an example student.

Negative Effects

Josh is in tenth grade. He struggles to keep up in class and does not feel as if he is getting adequate help from teachers or his parents. He feels stupid in comparison to the other students because he is failing all of his classes. Josh is beginning to feel hopeless about his chances for success at school and decides to take a bit of a break. He begins to skip class regularly.

Josh's parents find out about his unexcused absences and tell him to go back to class. Josh realizes that he is so behind that he may have to repeat a grade. He is seriously considering dropping out of school because he just isn't good at it, and he feels really bad about himself.

Unfortunately, Josh's story is not unusual. He is experiencing school failure due to poor skills, lack of support, and failing grades. He is truant frequently because he skips class to avoid the embarrassment of failure. These feelings of failure are devastating his self-esteem. Finally, he is at high risk for dropout because of these things.

If Josh doesn't successfully complete high school his opportunities for success and independence will be limited. He will place himself at greater risk for poverty, criminal behavior, and poor mental and physical health. What can be done to prevent students, like Josh, from experiencing school failure, truancy, and dropping out? Let's explore prevention now.


How might Josh's experience be different if he had a really great teacher, guidance counselor, or involved and supportive parents? In a nutshell, these things could prevent Josh from failing, skipping class, and dropping out.

School Failure

School failure can be reduced by creating a school environment where all students feel welcome and supported. This inclusiveness should include parents and families of students as well, because the larger the network of support, the greater the chance for success in students.

Students who are struggling must have resources. Good teachers, special classes, tutors, and other similar opportunities for remediation can prevent school failure. Again, family support is key to keep adolescents on track for academic success, so schools should find ways to support the relationships between students and their parents or care providers.


Let's assume that Josh's grades begin to improve with the resources we mentioned. He is feeling better about himself and his ability to succeed in school. Chances are very good that Josh's rates of truancy will decrease. Truancy is more common among adolescents who are failing in school. It is also related to poverty, illness, substance abuse, and unhealthy home/school environments. How can schools prevent truancy?

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