National Center on Secondary Education and Transition
Increasing Rates of School Completion
Moving From Policy and Research to Practice
A Manual for Policymakers, Administrators, and Educators
Preventing Dropout and Promoting School Completion
Dropping out of school is a process of disengagement that begins
- The decision to leave school is typically not an instantaneous event
- Many students who drop out of school are expressing an extreme form
of disengagement from school preceded by indicators of withdrawal (e.g.,
poor attendance) and unsuccessful school experiences (e.g., academic
or behavioral difficulties).
- Retrospective studies show the identification of potential dropouts
can be accomplished with reasonable accuracy in the elementary years
(Barrington & Hendricks, 1989).
Theoretical conceptualizations have helped us understand the
important role of student engagement in school and learning and have drawn
attention to key ingredients including student participation, identification,
social bonding, and personal investment in learning.
- Student engagement in school and learning is integral to school completion.
Finn’s (1993) model of dropout prevention suggests students must
actively participate in school and have a simultaneous feeling of identification
with school in order for them to remain in school and graduate.
School completion encompasses a broader view than simply preventing
dropout (Christenson, Sinclair, Lehr, & Hurley, 2000). Promoting school
- A strength-based orientation (vs. a deficit orientation),
- A comprehensive interface of systems (vs. a narrowly defined system
- Implementation over time (vs. implementation at a single period in
- Creating a person-environment fit (vs. a programmatic “one size
fits all” orientation), and
- A longitudinal focus, whereby interventions aim to promote a “good”
outcome, not simply prevent a “bad” outcome for students
In the past decade, engagement of alienated youth in school and
learning has emerged as one of the most important variables addressed
in prevention and intervention efforts.
Christenson (2002) defines engagement as a multi-dimensional construct
that involves four types of engagement and associated indicators.
- Academic engagement refers to time on task, academic
engaged time, or credit accrual.
- Behavioral engagement includes attendance, suspension,
and class participation.
- Cognitive engagement refers to internal indicators
including processing academic information or becoming a self-regulated
- Psychological engagement includes identification
with school and sense of belonging.
These indicators of engagement are influenced by contextual factors
across the home, school, and peers. A focus on facilitators of engagement
is a promising approach to guiding the development of effective interventions
promoting school completion.
1.19MB, 84 pages
Citation: Lehr, C. A., Johnson, D.
R., Bremer, C. D., Cosio, A., & Thompson, M. (2004). Essential
tools: Increasing rates of school completion: Moving from policy and research
to practice. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, Institute
on Community Integration, National Center on Secondary Education and Transition.
Permission is granted to duplicate this publication in its entirety or
portions thereof. Upon request, this publication will be made available
in alternative formats. For additional copies of this publication, or
to request an alternate format, please contact: Institute
on Community Integration Publications Office, 109 Pattee Hall, 150
Pillsbury Drive SE, Minneapolis, MN 55455, (612) 624-4512, firstname.lastname@example.org.
This document was published by the National
Center on Secondary Education and Transition (NCSET). NCSET is supported
through a cooperative agreement #H326J000005 with the U.S. Department
of Education, Office of Special Education Programs. Opinions expressed
herein do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the U.S. Department
of Education Programs, and no official endorsement should be inferred.
The University of Minnesota, the U.S. Department of Education, and the
National Center on Secondary Education and Transition are equal opportunity
employers and educators.