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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

Part III: What Works in Dropout Prevention?

The Decision-Making Process

Improving the graduation rate for students at risk of school failure is receiving national attention. The No Child Left Behind Act has raised expectations and added new accountability requirements that must now be addressed. Information on effective research-based interventions and practices must be systematically used to help improve the graduation rate of all students. The following sample interventions represent diverse approaches to addressing the problem of dropout and promoting school completion. Many of the interventions target alterable variables, and many focus on addressing the protective factors that can enhance school completion. For example, the interventions in this section focus on increasing students’ sense of belonging in school, fostering the development of relationships, improving academic success, addressing personal problems through counseling, providing skill-building opportunities in behavior, teaching social skills, etc. The diversity of successful approaches reflects the complexity of the dropout problem and the need to tailor approaches to local circumstances.

As McPartland (1994) cautions, implementing proven models, programs, or strategies is not a simple procedure. Those who are considering implementing existing programs must consider the degree to which basic tenets of the intervention program are compatible with the underlying philosophy, needs, and resources in the school or district where the program will be implemented (Stringfield, 1994). Additionally, the need for support with regard to implementation is critical to the success of any intervention program or strategy. Training, staff development, and planning time must be carefully considered. It is also critical to conduct ongoing evaluations of intervention effectiveness and make modifications as needed.

This manual provides sample solutions to the problem of dropout that have been evaluated and show evidence of success. The examples are intended to stimulate thinking and help guide intervention efforts. For more specific information on each intervention, consult the references or follow up with the contact provided at the end of each summary.

Table of Contents

Cover Page

Introduction & Getting Started

Part I: What Do We Know About Dropout Prevention?

Part II: How Were Sample Intervention Programs Selected?

  • The Need for Examples of Effective Interventions
  • Search Process & Initial Criteria
  • Raising the Bar
  • Final Parameters for Selection
  • Abstracts: Coding & Definitions

Part III: What Works in Dropout Prevention?

Part IV: Where Else Can I Go for More Information?

  • Related Resources & Organizations
  • Journal Articles & Related Publications
  • Web Sites Providing Data on Dropout Rates

Appendix: Reproducible Handouts on Dropout Prevention


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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, icipub@umn.edu.

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.