Samantha Gassel, CareContent

The Dropout Effect—And Why Theatre Education Might Be The Answer

The high school dropout rate is never “good” news, but at least it’s improving. More US students are graduating from high school than ever before—about 82%.

Unfortunately, there are still thousands of kids who leave high school each year without a diploma.

If you’re a clinician or work in healthcare, you might be asking, “How is this relevant to medicine?” The reality is, there’s a connection to public health.

High school dropouts are looking at a higher likelihood of health problems down the line, including:

  • Shorter life expectancies
  • Chronic conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, or heart disease
  • A more difficult time dealing with stress or managing chronic diseases

A kid who stays in high school is a happier kid with better health outcomes in the long run.

So, how can schools keep their students through graduation?

This is where theatre education steps on the scene. Yes, as in “Give my regards to Broadway.”

Here are 3 ways that theatre classes can keep students in school.

Keep ‘Em Coming Back For More.

Many students actually cite some type of disengagement, such as  uninteresting classes, as the main reason for leaving school.

dropout, theatre education

Drama classes can play a leading role in solving this problem. Students who participate in arts classes, such as drama, are more engaged in school and have better attendance records than their peers who do not take arts classes.

There’s No Small Role For At-Risk Students.

Students of all backgrounds drop out of school, but some are more at risk than others.

Students whose families live in poverty, or students who are black or Hispanic, have higher dropout rates. And at-risk students who don’t take classes in the arts are 5 times more likely to drop out of school than other kids.

Classes in the arts can lower that risk. For at-risk students, high engagement in the arts:

  • Reduces the likelihood of dropping out of school
  • Leads to better academic performance
  • Triples the likelihood of earning a bachelor’s degree
  • Inspires stronger civic engagement later in life

This is especially important, because going to college can have a direct impact on health. College graduates live longer and are less likely to smoke, be overweight, have heart disease, or develop diabetes.

Teens Can Develop Self-Esteem Of The Stars.

Drama classes have been shown to improve low self-esteem—another risk factor for dropping out of high school. They can also provide a place for students to explore emotions rather than suppressing them.

Students who take drama classes are also more confident in academic abilities—and for good reason. Compared to peers who don’t participate in drama, students who take drama classes:

  • Score 34 and 65 points higher in the math and verbal sections of the SAT, respectively
  • Develop strong skills in creative thinking, problem-solving, and dealing with complexity
  • Build strong language skills, especially if they have learning disabilities

Keeping up a strong theatre arts program takes work—getting the right teachers, finding a suitable classroom, funding productions, etc. However, it’s well worth the effort. By increasing the likelihood that kids will stay in school, theatre education sets the stage for their healthy future.

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