"The study found that the students who are dropping out have complex behavioural and academic problems," said lead author Pamela Orpinas, Professor at the University of Georgia in the US.
‘Students with high aggression and low study skills had a 50% dropout rate compared to students with low aggression and high study skills.’
Students exhibit both aggression and study skills early in school, and both behaviours have been independently associated with learning and success, or lack of it, the study showed.
A good education can level the playing field for students who may face other challenges in their environment, such as living in resource-poor neighbourhoods or an unstable home.
The key to helping a student stay in school is spotting the signs and behaviour that put students at the risk of dropping out earlier in their academic careers, Orpinas said.
"You can examine dysfunction in the family or problems in a neighbourhood, but there's very little teachers can do about it. Aggression and study skills are issues that the teachers could manage in the classroom," she added.
For the study, published in the Journal of School Health
, 620 sixth-grade high school students were selected.
Teachers completed a behaviour rating scale for these students every year from sixth to 12th grade. Based on teacher ratings, the students were grouped into low, medium and high aggression trajectories from middle to high school, and into five study skills groups.
Results showed that the students classified in the high aggression/low study skills group have a 50 per cent dropout rate compared to students with low aggression and high study skills who had a dropout rate of less than 2 per cent.