Shocking Facts About American High Schools

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25 Shocking Facts About American High Schools

Parents of teens understand being kept in the dark as their teens begin to strive for more independence from their parents. While this may be a natural part of growing up, it doesn’t mean that parents should be in the dark about their children’s schools. It may surprise you to learn about the educational statistics, condition of the school buildings, teacher salaries, and even the safety of teens at Americans high schools.



From funding issues to under-educating students to innovative ways to reach at-risk students, the following facts all revolve around high school education.

  1. Underfunded. Many high schools are seriously underfunded, resulting in less opportunities for students to succeed, particularly in low-income or urban schools. In Chicago, more money is spent housing adult prisoners ($21,000 annually) than educating students ($10,000 annually).
  2. Many students are lacking history and literature knowledge. A study done by Common Core indicates that a shocking number of students do not know many basic facts from literature and history–even recent history. Sometimes as many as 50% of students from the study didn’t know facts such as that the first World War was between 1900 and 1950, who Adolph Hitler was, or could identify Oedipus.
  3. Dropout rate. While dropout rates have fallen considerably since the 1970’s, there are still high numbers of students dropping out of high school. The high school dropout rate for black and Hispanic males is the highest, with rates at 11% for blacks and 23% for Hispanics compared to only 6% for whites. Males are much more likely to drop out than females.
  4. Building condition. 44% of schools said that the condition of their physical buildings interfered with learning in some capacity. Most commonly to blame for the interference is air conditioning. Principals reported more interference among portable buildings where such elements as lighting, air quality, noise control, and size of the rooms caused concerns.
  5. Distance learning. Most people hear the words “distance learning” and think about college. Surprisingly, more and more high schools are incorporating distance learning into their programs to help alleviate overcrowding, adjust to special scheduling needs of students, and provide AP classes. Results from a 2008 study show that over 9,000 schools had already started using distance learning as a tool for their students.
  6. Teacher salaries. The average teacher salary is $47,602 a year with new teachers averaging $31,753 a year. Some teachers earn as little as $28,590 a year. The federal poverty guideline for a single parent with two children is $18,310. New teachers and teachers in poorer districts are earning just over $10,000 above poverty level.
  7. Teacher qualifications. While most high school teachers have majored in the field they teach and many are also certified in that field, it is surprising to learn that among math teachers, 24% of them did not major in math.
  8. Number of charter high schools or alternative high schools. Charter and alternative high schools work to provide education in innovative ways to help prevent dropouts, better serve specific communities, offer parents and students a choice in the type of education they receive, and provide help to low-performing students. Many studies have shown the overwhelming effectiveness of these types of schools, yet they frequently receive less funding than other public schools and only make up about 23% of all public schools. Happily, though, charter schools are one of the fastest growing school reforms right now.
  9. Vocational education. In the 1980s and 90s almost all high school graduates took some type of vocational or technical education classes. Today, vocational education is down. Not only are the number of students taking classes down, the students who take vocational classes, are actually taking fewer classes.
  10. Off to college. Only 66% of high school graduates go to college immediately after graduation. Chances are higher that a graduate will go to college if a parent has a college degree.
  11. Academic achievement over time. Looking at academic achievement between the early 1970s and the early 2000s, average reading scores for 17 year-olds is about the same, average math scores have improved slightly, and average science scores have declined.
  12. Corporal punishment. Despite the fact that spanking is on a sharp decline with parents and it is often discouraged by medical professionals, many high schools still use corporal punishment as a form of discipline. 21 states allow corporal punishment. In those states, many schools do not even have to notify parents if they have used corporal punishment on their child.

Teen Safety

From date rape to firearms at school to bullying, read about these facts surrounding teen safety.

  1. Dating violence. An alarming number of high school students involved in what they qualify as serious relationships are in violent or potentially violent situations. 30% of teens worry about their personal safety and 20% report they have been hit, slapped, or pushed by their partner. One in five reports that their partners threatened violence against themselves or their partners if there was a breakup.
  2. Alcohol abuse. Alcohol abuse, while not always taking place in the schools, is certainly tied to what does go on at school. One statistic indicates that 25% of 17 year-olds have engaged in binge drinking. If this case come around in your school, you have to treating it safely and effectively.
  3. Suicide. Suicide is the 11th leading cause of death in America, ahead of murder, which is ranked 15th and is the 3nd leading cause of death in teens. Handguns are by far the leading method of suicide for both boys and girls at 55%.
  4. Bullying. While bullying drops off in high school after peaking in middle school, it does still occur. Some statistics say that up to 75% of students have been victims of bullying. Those who have been bullied are at greater risk for depression and self-esteem problems while bullies are more likely to engage in criminal behavior.
  5. Violence at school. While many of the violent school shootings that have made the news happen at rural schools, the fact is that more violence happens at urban schools than rural schools. 84% of this violence involved handguns.
  6. Firearms at school. One of parents’ most frightening thoughts is an armed student at their child’s school. In the 2003-2004 school year, 1256 high school students were expelled for bringing firearms to school. Most of those students were caught with handguns.
  7. Reducing gun violence. 91% of schools use some type of peer-to-peer or adult-to-peer program that includes such elements as mentoring, tutoring, or other specialize attention for reducing gun violence in school.
  8. Metal Detectors. Many people have visions of high school students walking through metal detectors before entering into locked-down buildings. The fact is that only 2.6% of high schools actually have metal detectors on campus. And only 36.4 have locked or monitored gates around the campus.
  9. Gangs. In schools where gangs are present, the rate of violence jumps from 2.7% to 7.5%. The idea that gangs are only found in urban schools is not true, with gangs also being found in suburban and rural schools as well.
  10. Drugs. On Teen Drug Abuse, one statistic says over 60% of teens surveyed said that drugs were sold, used, or kept at their school. Another says that 20% of 8th graders have tried marijuana and 28% of teens know a friend or classmate who has tried ecstasy.
  11. Sexual activity. Parents may be shocked to learn that 46% of teens in a study done by the CDC reported having sex at least one time. If parents rely on their teens to refrain from having sex and do not educate them on the dangers of sexually transmitted diseases or the risk of pregnancy, they may be facing something more serious than their teen’s dishonesty.
  12. Date rape. According to one study, 38% of date rape victims are girls between the ages of 14 and 17. Also, 6 out of 10 rapes of young women happen in their own home or the home of a friend or relative. These statistics indicate that some of the relationships formed at high school have the potential for danger.
  13. Smoking. Smoking among teens is more common than you may think. One study of high school students indicates that 28% smoke. Another estimate is that 4.5 million teens smoke.By Caitlin Smith

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