Until What Age is School Attendance Compulsory?

Across the nation, there are policies in place that dictate the ages during which children must attend school. These policies, referred to as compulsory education age requirements, are put in place to make sure all children receive an education. Compulsory attendance ages vary by state, but all outline a lower age limit at which children are required to be enrolled in school and an upper age limit at which attendance is no longer compulsory. This upper age limit usually occurs in the last few years of high school, and after they reach this age students are allowed to drop out of school.

The ages for this upper limit are different in every state, but all fall within the range of 16 to 18 years old. Only about half the states in the US require attendance until the age of 18. But as policymakers review and change their statutes, this number continues to rise. Many states push for this higher age limit to try to guarantee that their students receive enough learning to make their way in a society that increasingly requires higher levels of education. By requiring students to attend school until they are 18, states see a dramatically reduced rate of dropouts, ensuring their students are receiving as much education as they can.

States with an upper compulsory attendance age limit of 16 include Alaska, Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Massachusetts, Montana, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming. States with a limit of 17 are Alabama, Colorado, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and West Virginia. Those whose upper age limit is 18 include Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.

AP Enrollment Provides Performance Benefits For Low Income Students

AP courses and tests have long been seen as benchmarks for students’ academic success in high school. Yet many underprivileged students who are capable of doing well in AP courses or on AP exams do not enroll in courses or take exams.  According to the The College Board, which runs AP testing, a participation equity gap exists between privileged and underprivileged students on AP tests. The College Board estimated some 286,403 students did not take the AP course for which they showed potential. Conservatively, the College Board estimates that only 4 out of every 10 Latino and White students and just 3 out of every 10 African-American and Amerindian students enroll in the AP science courses for which they are deemed compatible.

AP course enrollment may have more significance than just offering students a chance to receive college credits in high school. As Leonardo Bursztyn of UCLA and Robert Jensen of the University of Pennsylvania noted, peer pressure in the classroom can have major implications on whether or not  students choose to take more rigorous courses. Looking at two projects— one where students who did well appeared on a leaderboard of success and one where students signed up for SAT prep courses— Bursztyn and Jensen discovered that teens are less likely to do well or take opportunities like free SAT prep courses when their peers might ostracize them for academic success. In environments where peers were overtly more driven, such as AP courses, the students more often wanted to be shown as achieving well and were more likely to sign up for SAT prep courses. However, in general education courses the same students were less likely to sign up for free SAT prep courses. They were also less likely to score well on tests where their performances would be shown to other classmates. In other words, most students want to appear to be the norm, and the peer-environment around them determines the norm. Similarly, enrollment in AP courses may be seen by some as making an ostentatious display of “nerdiness” but, if students are convinced to enroll, the environment may offer a place for them to excel further. At a time where many elite schools offer great incentives, such as greatly reduced tuition or full-scholarships for underprivileged students, which are often not taken advantage of, putting students in an environment where they are encouraged to apply to better schools could have great benefits.

Several organizations come to alleviate the gap in AP enrollment and exam success. The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation has offered incentives and financial assistance to urban schools which raise AP enrollment and student achievement on tests. Equal Opportunity Schools, an education non-profit which partners with school districts, has recently enacted a $100 million dollar project, Lead Higher, to help schools identify and enroll 100,000 low-income students in AP or IB programs.

MetaMetrics is an educational measurement organization. Our renowned psychometric team develops scientific measures of student achievement that link assessment with targeted instruction to improve learning.