The graduation rate for students with disabilities and other student populations continues to be far below the national average. According to the 23rd Report to Congress, only 57% of youth with disabilities graduated with regular diplomas during the 1998-1999 school year (U.S. Department of Education, 2001). Other student populations who have disproportionately high rates of dropout include those from low socio-economic circumstances or single-parent families and those who are identified as Native American or Hispanic/Latino (National Center for Education Statistics, 2002; Rosenthal, 1998). The problem of dropout can no longer be ignored, given the associated negative impact on individuals and society.
The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 has focused recent attention on the problem of dropout and is driving efforts to increase graduation rates for all students. This law holds schools accountable for student progress using indicators of adequate yearly progress (AYP), including measures of academic performance and rates of school completion. Educators, administrators, and policymakers at district and state levels are in need of interventions that will increase high school graduation for all students, especially those at risk of school failure. With the recent emphasis on accountability, personnel from local and state education agencies are charged with developing programs that engage students in school and learning, ensure acquisition of academic and social skills necessary for adulthood, and result in high rates of school completion.
Programs and practices designed to prevent dropout have been implemented in schools across the country for decades. These practices vary and include counseling services, mentoring programs, tutoring, attendance monitoring, and after-school programs. Unfortunately, the extent to which these interventions are systematically targeted for disengaged learners is unclear, and closer examination suggests many of these programs and practices lack research or evaluation data documenting effectiveness (Lehr, Hansen, Sinclair, & Christenson, 2003). The resources required for program implementation in terms of time, staff, and dollars point to the need for clear evidence of effectiveness. Additionally, the current federal administration has drawn increased attention to the need for educational decisions grounded in scientifically based evidence (Feuer, Towne, & Shavelson, 2002).
This Essential Tool provides a synthesis of research-based dropout prevention and intervention and offers examples of interventions that show evidence of effectiveness. This has proven to be a difficult task because the intervention research on dropout and school completion that can be used to inform practice is incomplete (Dynarski & Gleason, 2002; Lehr et al., 2003; Sutherland & MacMillan, 2001). Although there is not yet a solid foundation of research on dropout intervention and prevention from which to make strong conclusions, there is information that educators, administrators, and policymakers can use to help make informed decisions. This tool is intended as a base of current knowledge that can be built upon as additional interventions are implemented and empirically validated.
Table of Contents
Part I: What Do We Know About Dropout Prevention?
Part III: What Works in Dropout Prevention?
Appendix: Reproducible Handouts on Dropout Prevention
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.
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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.