Moving from Research to Practical Application in Dropout Prevention

Moving from Research to Practical
Application in Dropout Prevention
Presented by:
Pat Homberg, Executive Director
Susan Beck, Assistant Director
Debbie Harless, Coordinator
Office of Special Education
Prepared by:
Loujeania Williams Bost, PhD
Director, National Dropout
Prevention Center for Students
with Disabilities
Module 2 Intensive Technical Assistance
1. Increase participants’ awareness and understanding of
dropout and its effect on students with disabilities.
2. Provide participants with an overview of recent research
on the causes and risk factors associated with dropout.
3. Identify effective practices that increase student
engagement and school completion.
What the Research Tells Us:
I. What is Dropout?
Dropout: A Process of Disengagement
Not an isolated event
• Elementary years, process begins
• Elevated dropout rates reported among children
who were rated as highly aggressive by their
1st grade teachers (Ensminger & Slusarcick, 1992).
• Dropouts could be distinguished from graduates with 66% accuracy
by the third grade using attendance data; and
• Identification of dropouts can be accomplished with reasonable
accuracy based on review of school performance (behavior,
attendance, academics) during the elementary years (Barrington &
Hendricks, 1989) .
Students who had repeated a grade as early as K – 4th grade were five
times more likely to drop out of school (Kaufman & Bradby, 1992).
Predictors of Dropout
(Balfanz & Herzog, 2005; 2006)
1. The four strongest predictors – determined by the end
of sixth grade
1. Poor attendance (14%)
2. Poor behavior (17%)
3. Failing math (21%)
4. Failing English (16%)
2. Sixth graders who do not attend school regularly,
receive poor behavior marks, or fail math or English
• 10% chance of graduating on time
• 20% chance of graduating a year late
Predictors of Dropout (Continued)
3. Students who repeated middle school grades are 11 times
more likely to drop out than students who had not
4. A student who is retained two grades increases their risk of
dropping out of high school by 90% (Roderick, 1995).
5. Transition between schools
 Middle school/junior high school to high school
Predictors of Dropout (Continued)
(Balfanz & Herzog, 2006)
6. Students who enter ninth grade two or more grade
levels behind their peers have only a one in two
chance of being promoted to the tenth grade on time.
7. Ninth grade retention is the biggest predictor of
8. The biggest fall off for students is between ninth and
tenth grade
What the Research Tells Us:
II. Causes and Risk Factors
Risk Factors
• Education, Sociology, and Economics
• Demographic characteristics and family background
• Past school performance
• Personal/psychological characteristics
• Adult responsibilities
• School or neighborhood characteristics
Risk Factors (Continued)
• Personal/psychological characteristics
– Commitment to schooling and ability to follow
through on this commitment, low self-esteem & locus
of control, low educational expectations or plans
• Adult responsibilities
– Employment, caring for a child
• Working >20 hours/week positively associated with dropping
• Pregnancy positively associated with dropping out
• School or neighborhood characteristics
– Poor neighborhoods vs. wealthier neighborhoods
– Higher in urban schools; rural; suburban
Risk Factors (Continued)
• Demographic Characteristics
– African American, American Indian/Native American, Hispanic/Latino
• Approximately half of African American students do not receive
diplomas with their cohort.
• Less than 50% of Native American Students graduate each year
(Faircloth & Tippeconnic, 2010).
• Native students have the highest dropout rate in the nation
(Indian Nation At Risk, 1991).
• Hispanic students are the largest minority group in our Nation’s
• Fewer than half of all Hispanic children participate in early
childhood education programs, and far too few Hispanics
students graduate from high school.
Risk Factors (Continued)
• Family Background
• Family income, SES, family involvement, families who
receive welfare, parents’ educational attainment, single
parent home, limited English proficiency, parent or sibling
dropped out
• Students from low SES families are four times more
likely to drop out than their high SES peers
• Past School Performance
• Low grades, poor test scores, retention & age, disciplinary
problems, truancy, spending little time on homework
Taking a Closer Look
III. Status and Alterable Variables
Status Variables
Variables associated with dropout that are difficult and
unlikely to change
Native language
Parental employment
School size and type
Family structure
Alterable Variables
Variables associated with dropout that can be changed
Disruptive behavior
School policies
School climate
Parent engagement
• Sense of belonging
• Attitudes toward school
• Educational support in
the home
• Retention
• Stressful life events
Examples of Status and Alterable Variables
Class of Variables
Status Variables
Alterable Variables
(e.g. LD, EBD)
(e.g. sporadic)
(e.g. single parent family)
Supervision of free time
(e.g. rarely occurs)
(e.g. low IQ)
Identification with school
(e.g. alienated)
Socioeconomic Status
(e.g. living in poverty)
Monitoring of Student
(e.g. consistently occurs)
Geographic Features
(e.g. urban)
Support Services
(e.g. available)
Source: Christenson, Sinclair, & Hurley (2000)
Taking a Closer Look
IV. Pull and Push Factors
Pull Factors That Lead to Dropout
• Pull Factors
• Reported by students
• Compete with the goal of regular school attendance
• Compete with successful school completion as a first
priority or
• Have to be performed in conjunction with attending
Push Factors That Lead to Dropout
• Push Factors
• Reported by students
• Located within schools
• Cause students to feel unwelcome
• Students resist or altogether reject schooling
• Manifest disruptive behavior, chronic absenteeism, and
completion cessation of academic effort
Pull Factors That Lead to Dropout (Continued)
Pull Factors
Had to get a job
Had to support family
Became pregnant
Wanted to have a family
Wanted to travel
Friends dropped out
Got married, or planned to get married
Had to care for family member due to illness
Push Factors That Lead to Dropout (Continued)
Push Factors
Did not like school
Could not get along with teachers/students
Suspended too often
Expelled too often
Did not feel safe at school
Did not belong
Could not keep up with school work/failing school
What the Research Tells Us:
V. Theoretical Models of Prevention
Theoretical Conceptualizations for Preventing
Dropout and Promoting School Completion
(Finn, 1993)
• School Completion = Engagement in School and
Student Participation
Identification with School
Social Bonding
Personal Investment in Learning
Theoretical Conceptualizations for Preventing
Dropout and Promoting School Completion
(Fashola & Slavin,1998)
Incorporating personalization by creating
meaningful personal bonds;
Connecting students to an attainable future;
Providing academic assistance to help students
perform well in their coursework; and
Recognizing the importance of families in the
success of their children’s achievement and school
Theoretical Conceptualizations for Preventing
Dropout and Promoting School Completion
(Dynarski, 2000)
• Creating small schools with small class sizes
• Building relationships and enhancing communication
between students and teachers
• Providing individual academic and behavior support
• Helping students address personal and family issues
through counseling and access to social services
• Orientation towards assisting students in efforts to
obtain GED certificates.
Theoretical Conceptualizations for
Preventing Dropout and Promoting School
Completion (Continued) (Christenson, 2002)
• Help students develop connections with the learning
environments across a variety of domains
• Engagement is viewed as a multi-dimensional construct
involving four types of engagement and associated
Four Types of Engagement & Associated
Factors (Christenson, 2002)
• Academic engagement refers to time on task, academically
engaged time, or credit accrual.
• Behavioral engagement includes attendance, avoidance of
suspension, classroom participation, and involvement in
extracurricular activities.
• Cognitive engagement involves internal indicators including
processing academic information or becoming a self-regulated
• Psychological engagement includes identification with school or a
sense of belonging.
Theoretical Conceptualizations for Preventing
Dropout and Promoting School Completion
(Continued) (Lehr et al., 2003)
• Personal/affective (e.g., retreats designed to enhance
self-esteem, regularly scheduled classroom-based
discussion, individual counseling, participation in an
interpersonal relations class)
• Academic (e.g., provision of special academic course,
individualized methods of instruction, tutoring)
• Family outreach (e.g., strategies that include increased
feedback to parents or home visits)
Theoretical Conceptualizations for
Preventing Dropout and Promoting School
Completion (Continued) Lehr et al., 2003)
• School structure (e.g., implementation of
school within a school, re-definition of the role
of the homeroom teacher, reducing school
size, creation of an alternative school)
• Work related (vocational training, participation
in volunteer or service programs)
Theoretical Conceptualizations for Preventing
Dropout and Promoting School Completion
(Continued) (Principles for Keeping Kids in School: Kortering, 2004)
Increase the Holding Power of Schools for SWD
• Students must have a reason to want to
complete school. They must understand the
relevance of graduation to their future.
• Students need and want to access an adult who
will encourage them to stay in school and help
them to succeed..
What the Research Tells Us:
VI. Effective Interventions and Models
Effective Approaches for Intervention
• Implementation of early intervening strategies that
are universal in nature and focused on prevention.
• Program offerings to provide extra help for certain
groups of students who share particular risk factors
• Extensive or personalized help for targeted
• Interventions occur over time, usually months or
• Interventions that are strength based and involve a
variety of contexts
Non Effective Approaches for Intervention
• Short-lived approaches
• Punishment-oriented approaches
• Approaches not focused on engaging students
in school
• Practices not based on data
• Practices utilizing practices without evidence of
General Practices Related to Dropout
Comprehensive diagnostic data systems
Early warning systems
Provide rigorous and relevant instruction
Provide academic support
Provide personalized instruction and learning
Instruction on behavior and social skills
Supportive school climate
Family engagement
Interventions Influenced by Educators
• Focus on factors linked to dropout
• Positive school climate
• Attendance
• Behavior
• Academic performance
• Family engagement
• Student engagement
• Evaluate policies and procedures regarding
• Implementation of evidence-based
• Interventions must be matched to student needs
Effective Models (Continued)
Original Study Outcomes
(Cobb, 2005)
• Staying in school; retention in support programs
designed to keep students in school
• Attendance
• Engagement with school
• Physical or verbal aggression
• Self-concept; self-esteem
(Cobb, 2005)
•Cognitive-behavioral Interventions – (YES)
• Appears best for high incidence disabilities
•Applied Behavior Analytic Interventions – (Cautious Yes)
• Appears useful to reduce verbally and physically
aggressive behavior and both high and low incidence
•Counseling Interventions – (No Judgment Can Be Made)
• Appears useful specifically for students with
emotional disorders
• Diagnostic processes for identifying studentlevel and school wide dropout issues
• Targeted interventions for a subset of middle
and high school students who are identified as
at risk for dropping out
• School wide reforms designated to enhance
Use a Diagnostic Approach
Institute of Educational Science Dropout Prevention Practice Guide
Comprehensive, longitudinal, student level databases that
include unique student identifiers
Enables SEAs and LEAs to conduct causal analysis
Use data to identify incoming students with histories of
academic problems
Monitor Academic Progress of all students
Review student level data to identify students at risk of
dropping out
Monitors student’s sense of belonging
Targeted Interventions
• Caring Adult Advocates
• Academic Support & Enrichment
• Improvement in Behavior and
Social Skills
School wide Reforms
• Personalized Learning
• Rigorous and relevant instruction
in academic and career skills
What We Know About Patterns of Risk
(Allensworth, 2007)
 Freshmen with 0–4 absences in a 90-day grading period have a
greater than 80% rate of graduation, while freshman with 10–14
absences in the same period graduate at a 40% rate.
 Freshmen with no course failures have a greater than 80% chance
of graduating, while those with two failures have a 55% graduation
rate, and those with four failures have a 30% rate.
 Freshmen with a GPA of 3.5 or higher have a nearly 100%
graduation rate, while those with a 2.0 GPA have a 70% rate and
those with a 1.0 have a 30% rate.
 Sixth-grade students who fail math or English, have an 80% or
lower attendance rate, or earn an unsatisfactory behavior grade
have just a 10–20% likelihood of graduating high school in five
Key Risk Indicators
Student absences
Grade retention
Low academic achievement
Family Engagement
School Climate
Critical transition points
Areas Identified
Adult Advocates
Family Engagement
Academic Success
9th Grade Transitions
Student Engagement
Vocational/ Career Preparation
Interpersonal Skills
Class and School Restructuring
Adult Advocates
Role of Mentor
• Provide students with
support and encouragement
• Convey the message to
students that teachers care
about their future
• Help students see the value
in school and graduating
from school
• Model positive behavior and
decision-making skills
Monitor students’ attendance
Check homework completion
Help students develop conflictresolution skills
Communicate with families and
Arrange for tutoring and social
Help students establish
postsecondary and career goals
Strategies that Increase Family
• Conduct home visits to develop relationships with
family members
• Provide transportation or arrange car-pooling to
school events and offer to meet parents in
locations that are convenient for them
• Provide assistance for parents in reinforcing
classroom instruction and providing behavioral
support for their children at home
• Contact parents with positive information about
their children and thank them for their support
Strategies to Increase
Academic Success
• Tutoring / individual instruction
• Study skills and test-taking classes
• Individual or small group instruction in
reading and core academic areas
• Extra instruction / credit recovery through
Saturday school, after-school, or summer
• Self-paced online programs
Ninth-Grade Transitions
• Use current high school students as
mentors for incoming freshman
• Hold a freshman class orientation while
students are in middle school
• Institute summer programs at the high
school to increase students’ academic
skills, orient them to the layout of the
school, and enable them to meet high
school teachers
Ninth-Grade Transitions
• Address the instructional needs of
students who enter high school
unprepared for rigorous academic work
• Personalize the learning environment
through small class sizes, a freshman
academy, mentoring programs, or
student participation in school activities
Strategies for Increasing Student
Create small learning communities
Show an interest in students on a personal level
Focus on the development of peer relationships
Encourage students to participate in school
• Use instructional techniques that emphasize the
relevance of classroom learning
Career and Vocational Preparation
• Classes focused on employability skills across a
variety of occupations
• Occupationally specific programming in a trade,
such as carpentry or plumbing
• Training in related skills such as computer literacy,
job seeking, and workplace behavior
• On-the-job training for which students can earn
• Career days at which students can gain
information from local employers
• Connections to postsecondary institutions
Interpersonal Skills
Self Determination
Decision making
Problem solving
Goal setting
Leadership skills
Interpersonal Skills
Social Skills
Meeting people
Conflict management
Active listening
Starting conversations
Appropriate body language, gestures,
and facial expressions
Interpersonal Skills
Life Skills
Conflict management
Social skills
Goal setting
Leisure skills
Community participation
Job-seeking skills
Class / School Restructuring
Reduce class sizes
Create freshman academies
Establish a school-within-a-school
Provide opportunities for team
What we Learned
• Dropout is COMPLEX – there is no one
solution – the costs are substantial
• Dropout does not occur overnight
• SWD are at considerable risk
• We must identify and address risk factors
• Risk factors have predictability
• Educators can influence risk factors
• Family engagement is critical
• Evidence-based practices are essential
What we Learned
• Existing district and school data systems can
be used to help learn about students at risk
for school failure and dropout.
• Adults matter in youth’s lives
• Instruction must be revelant, rigorous and
• Use of a continuum of tiered interventions
can be used to address risk in academics
and behavior
New Lessons Learned
• Measuring risk indicators is an important first
step in intervention
• A systems approach is required to make
significant gains
• Early warning intervention systems can
support on-track success at each level of
• States can support LEAs by providing
sufficient infrastructure support to support
implementation of initiatives at the local
Additional Information
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