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Exit Exams, the Prison Pipeline and Getting Tough Anyway

NCJ Number
Justice Policy Journal Volume: 6 Issue: 2 Dated: Fall 2009
Randall G. Shelden
Date Published
7 pages
This article presents an overview of studies detailing the connection between school dropout and juvenile crime, the use of high school exit exams and declining graduation rates, and the continued use of get tough policies despite declines in juvenile crime rates.
This article reports on several studies that have documented the connection between school dropout and juvenile crime and notes that high school dropouts earn lower wagers, pay fewer taxes, are more likely to commit crimes, less likely to be employed, and are more likely to be on welfare compared to youth who graduate from high school. Several studies have found that the use of high school exit exams has made the problem of school dropout worse. The exams did not have any positive impact on students' academic achievement level but they did have a negative impact on graduation rates, especially among minority and female students. One of the studies identifies six risk factors that are important predictors of young people dropping out of school: 1) being from a single-parent home; 2) having at least one parent who did not graduate; 3) having an older sibling who dropped out; 4) spending 3 or more hours alone after school; 5) having limited English speaking skills; and 6) coming from a low-income family. The report also highlights the use of get tough policies that continue to allow more and more juvenile offenders to be prosecuted in adult criminal court thereby worsening the problem of juvenile crime.