Top Reasons That Kids Struggle in School


Every year about 3 million students drop out of high school. Though there are myriad reasons why a kid might drop out of school, many quit because they struggle academically and socially. More specifically, a student's interpersonal relationships and inherent learning abilities -- or disabilities -- can lead to an uncomfortable or even hostile learning environment.

Interpersonal Relationships

  • According to educational researcher Louie Rodriguez, a child’s struggles with school can be partially explained by the student's interpersonal relationships with friends, family members, teachers and other school professionals. Rodriguez, who researches relationships between children and adults in urban schools, points to contentious and unsupportive learning environments as a major reason why some schoolchildren struggle with their studies. He defines unsupportive learning environments as those in which a student believes there is no family member or educational professional to turn to for assistance. These environments are often created when kids and adults butt heads over rules and regulations, as well as expectations. When students feel that they are unsupported by their relationships with others, they are more likely to feel alone when working on schoolwork.

Extracurricular Struggles

  • H.B. Ferguson, S. Bovaird and M.P. Mueller, professors of child psychology and psychiatry, suggest that problems outside the school environment -- such as crime and poverty -- negatively affect a child’s ability to do well in school. These experts assert that such extracurricular struggles impact a child’s self-esteem and school-readiness. Worries about crime or familial financial difficulties may distract students from school preparedness; consequently, such children struggle scholastically.

Learning Disabilities

  • Many schools provide support professionals who work closely with students with special needs; however, many students struggle through school because of an undiagnosed learning disability. Because their disability remains undiagnosed, these children do not receive the proper support they need to succeed in school. The number of students with an undiagnosed learning disability is difficult to gauge. The National Center for Learning Disabilities, however, recommends that any student be evaluated if there is any question as to whether or not the child may have a disability that could impede academic success.

Executive Function Skills

  • Jennifer Viemont, an academic coach and president of The Successful Student, maintains that many students struggle because they lack fully developed executive function skills. These skills include a student's ability to structure and organize time, which in turn enables goal-setting, meeting deadlines, staying organized and fulfilling responsibilities. According to Viemont many schools assume children start school already possessing this expertise, and so such functional skills are rarely taught as part of a school’s standard curriculum.

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