Reports concerning high school graduation and dropout rates have varied regarding the percentage of graduates said to be produced by the United States over the years (Sum et al., 2003; CPE, 2006). This has mainly been because of varying definitions of the term “high school dropout” (Lehr et al., 2004). In order to calculate graduation rates, data will be retrieved from the U.S. Census Bureau (USCB). The calculation of the dropout rate will be the mean average a number of methods. The first method will involve obtaining from the U.S. Census Bureau the number of persons who have attained high school diplomas within a ten-year period, ranging from 1995 to 2005. Then, data concerning the number of persons enrolled in school (or who became eligible for the twelfth grade) at the beginning of those school years will also be obtained. The Graduation Rate (GR) will be determined by dividing the number of persons who gained diplomas (D) by the number of persons who were eligible (E) for the twelfth grade in each of those years. This ratio will then be multiplied by 100 to obtain a percentage.
Persons gaining diplomas X 100 = Graduation Rate (GR)
Persons eligible for twelfth grade
Another method of calculation that will also be used is to find the graduation rate is one that considers the number of persons who gain a diploma as a percentage of those who entered the ninth grade no more than four years earlier (CPE, 2006). When using the USCB information concerning each state, this number will be adjusted to include those who entered the system via transfer and to exclude those who left via the same method. Since those who complete high school within the four-year period are considered by many more likely to “succeed beyond high school” (CPE, 2006), it suits the purposes of this research to exclude (in at least this calculation) those persons who complete diplomas in more than four years.
Persons gaining diplomas in year Y X 100 = Graduation Rate (GR)
Persons entering the ninth grade 4 years earlier
The percentages gathered from these calculations will be then combined with those gained from reputable studies and the results averaged. This will be done in order to gain a more complete and inclusive graduation rate for the general United States with which to compare the dropout rates for prison populations.
Further statistical analysis will be done on the proportion of persons gaining high school diplomas in prisons. This will use similar variables, such as number of persons incarcerated and the level of high school education attained by these persons. The public U.S. census data will provide this information, as it contains information concerning group quarters that allow prison inmates to be identified from their census forms (Lochner & Moretti, 2003). Because of the discrepancy concerning the proportion of persons considered to have dropped out of high school in the United States (Sum et al., 2003; CPE, 2006), other forms of these two variables will be obtained for meta-analysis from similar studies done throughout the given years (1995-2005) on the same topic. The high school graduation rates of incarcerated persons will be averaged, and this percentage will be considered as one of the results of the study.
Once this information is obtained regarding dropout rates, further trends will be calculated using the comparison of other variables. These include number of times incarcerated, age at first time of incarceration, length of sentence, and seriousness of crime committed. These will be done on a specific prison population (NAME THE PRISON) and data will be obtained through the use of questionnaires. Once the data has been collected, the variables will be correlated first with the status of the inmate as a graduate or dropout. Then, further correlations will take place between each of these variables on the one hand, and the level of education gained by each inmate on the other. The levels considered will be below ninth, tenth, eleven, or twelfth grades. These correlations will be plotted on graphs in order to detect any trends in the relationships that exist between level of education and tendency toward criminal activity.
Several reasons have been cited by researchers to explain why students decide to drop out of high school. One of these reasons is a lack of adequate early-childhood preparation (Reynolds et al., 2001). Children who receive inadequate educational preparation in the early stages of their lives often find it difficult to grasp the concepts being taught at the high school levels. These children might also not have had proper exposure to the types of behaviors and study habits necessary for success in high school. These, and other problems associated with them, often lead to an inability to cope with the demands of the educational environment (2001).
Lack of adequate financial support also plays a part in causing students to drop out of school (Ingrum, 2006; Reynolds et al., 2001). It is often the case that students are unable to access the materials necessary for success in school due to lack of funds. Furthermore, poverty often drives students to seek jobs (or even less honorable ways of earning money) before their high school education officially ends. This often has also to do with a lack of appropriate emotional and family support, which often ebbs when finances are low. Furthermore, some parents of these students have hardly attained high school diplomas themselves and are therefore incapable of assisting these children with assignments (Sum et al., 2003).
Finally a lack of intellectual aptitude, which manifests in the form of learning disabilities, has been cited as having a significant part to play in prompting students to drop out of school (Ingrum, 2006). Schools are largely accommodating to those persons of average intelligence who have little or no endogenous difficulties learning. These students often find it particularly difficult to perform even the fundamental functions of education, such as reading and simple arithmetic.
Many who do drop out are disadvantaged compared to their counterparts who possess diplomas. These people are more likely to be unemployed, as employers for substantial and adequately paying jobs generally seek high school graduates. These persons are also more likely to be underemployed, as it is often difficult to find full time positions that seek to employ persons who have not completed high school. Because of these previously mentioned effects, high school dropouts are also more likely to be on welfare, and it has also been demonstrated that these persons are more likely to be incarcerated (Lochner & Moretti, 2003).
Many programs exist that center on the rehabilitation of dropouts because such persons are considered more likely to be desperate. The reality of being marginalized when it comes to eligibility for adequately paying jobs often drives persons toward feelings of low self worth and even toward such extreme measures as crime (Lochner & Moretti, 2003). It is often the case that persons who fall into this desperate category are those who have mental or physical challenges and who need the help of these programs (Ingrum, 2006). However, a large proportion of them are considered more likely to have emotional/behavioral problems, and it is quite often members of this group of dropouts that show up in prison populations (Lochner & Moretti, 2003).
Such persons are considered a drain on the government for several reasons, one of which is lost revenue from taxes. Persons who have no high school diploma are usually able to command lower wages or salaries than those who have graduated. This lower wage translates to a lower portion of income tax payable to the government. Furthermore, these persons are often also on welfare, and the cost of these programs to the government increase with each person that benefits from it. The cost of prison programs is also significant to the government. Since, therefore, it is considered that the prison population contains a higher concentration of dropouts than the general population (Lochner & Moretti, 2003), it might be seen that high school dropouts contribute more on average to the drain on the government due to prison programs than do members of the general population.
Hypothesis: Lack of education as demonstrated by dropping out of high-school leads to an increased likelihood of criminal arrests in young people.
Methodology: variables and instrumentation
The main instrument that will be used in this study is the questionnaire. This will be administered to 100 prison inmates from (NAME OF PRISON) in (NAME OF CITY & STATE). This questionnaire will consist of approximately 25-30 items that will deal with the level of high school education attained and arrests suffered by the inmate. The participants will be given choices regarding their schooling, ranging from below eighth grade level (< 8) to below twelfth grade level (< 12). They will also be given a chance to indicate whether high school diplomas were received by the time they reached 18 years of age or after 18 years.
The questionnaire will also contain items that deal with the inmates’ criminal history. Items will attempt to elicit information concerning the number of arrests participants have experienced. It will also distinguish between number of arrests and number of convictions. Participants will also provide information regarding the number of juvenile arrests and convictions they have had, as well as the length of the sentence(s) which they currently serve and/or have served in the past.
Interviews will also be sought with two or three of these inmates. The possibility of conducting an interview via the internet (instant messaging or voice programs) will be investigated. The interview questions will be more open ended, but will tend toward eliciting information concerning the inmates’ views on how they consider their lack of a high school diploma to have influenced their current situation.