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Compulsory Education

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Compulsory Attendance Act
The Compulsory Attendance Act of 1852 enacted by the state of Massachusetts was the first law attempting to control the conditions of children. The law included mandatory attendance for children between the ages of eight and fourteen for at least three months out of each school year (Oreopoulos, 2007). Compulsory education laws were put in place in order to hold students accountable for attending school to a certain age. This paper I will explain what exactly the compulsory attendance act is and what the benefits are for having compulsory attendance laws in our school systems.

Compulsory Attendance Laws specify a minimum and a maximum age between which school attendance is required; a minimum period of attendance; penalties for non-compliance; and the conditions under which individuals could be exempted from attending school, such as the completion of a given grade or mental or physical disability. Children that have special needs or require special education services are exempt from this law. The compulsory attendance laws also vary by states.

Compulsory attendance laws are crafted by each state to require school attendance for children of certain ages. Five states require students to begin school at age 5, 32 mandate school attendance at age 6, and a small number allow children to wait until reaching 8 years old. All children must continue education through high school, with 26 states setting the benchmark at 16, and others at 17 or 18 (Oreopoulos, 2007). In my opinion, the law would work better if all the states were in agreement. The United States’ current compulsory school attendance laws can also hold parents liable if the students do not comply with these laws and could face jail time.

Compulsory Attendance has been directly related to students that drop out of school. It is estimated that the effects of staying in school for just one additional year can increase an individual’s income by about ten percent (Oreopoulos, 2007). People that drop out of school make significantly less money than someone who graduated from high school. Unfortunately, the population of students that are most likely to drop out of high school already come from low income environments.

Dropping out of high school makes it very difficult for students to make their lives better in the future. According to Oreopoulos, states that have increased the compulsory attendance age have seen a decrease in dropout rates and an increase in post-secondary education attendance. This has impacted the disadvantaged youth population. A valuable piece of advice I received from a teacher is that, students that do well are the ones that pay attention in class and in order to do that you have to attend class.

There is a positive correlation between how many years someone attends school and their health throughout life. For instance, there has been a direct correlation with compulsory education laws and teenage pregnancy rates. Being a teenage mother can have negative economic and health effects on both the mother and the child. Many teenage mothers have lower educations, get paid lower wages, have higher unemployment rates and are welfare dependent due to not having the ability to finish their education (Oreopoulos, 2007). It could be concluded that women that stay in school due to compulsory education laws are less likely to become young mothers.

Given all of the benefits, it is clear that laws need to be put in place to ensure that all students attend school. People who stay in school tend to make more money and are healthier and be happier. People who drop out of school tend to make less money, have poor health, cost the state a great deal of money and I would think they would regret that decision. I think it has been a great advantage to the American population to have these laws enacted and enforced.

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