E-mail this page
Download PDF
1.19MB, 84 pages
Acrobat Reader required
NCSET logo

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?

Sample Dropout Intervention Program


Background: Achievement for Latinos through Academic Success (ALAS) was one of three projects that received funding in 1990 from the Office of Special Education Programs to address the problem of dropout for students with disabilities. The project focused on preventing dropout in high-risk middle school and junior high Latino students through involvement with students and their families, the school, and the community.

Intervention Description: ALAS was developed to prevent high-risk Latino students with and without disabilities from dropping out of school. The model uses a collaborative approach involving the student, family, school, and community. Fundamental aspects of the program in each of four areas are listed below.

  • Students receive social problem-solving training, counseling, increased and specific recognition of academic excellence, and enhancement of school affiliation.
  • Schools are responsible for providing frequent teacher feedback to students and parents and attendance monitoring. In addition, schools are expected to provide training for students in problem-solving and social skills.
  • Parents of program participants receive training in school participation, accessing and using community resources, and how to guide and monitor adolescents.
  • Collaboration with the community is encouraged through increased interaction between community agencies and families. Efforts to enhance skills and methods for serving the youth and family are also implemented.

Participants & Setting: This program targeted Latino middle or junior high students who were considered to be at high risk of school failure. The program particularly focused on Mexican-American students from high-poverty neighborhoods who had learning and emotional/behavioral disabilities. Students selected for participation were either (a) students with active Individual Education Programs (IEPs) and an identified learning disability or severe emotional/behavioral disability, or (b) students who did not have IEPs, but who exhibited characteristics placing them at-risk for dropping out of school. Students were required to be able to speak English to participate in the program. ALAS has been used in urban and suburban settings.

Implementation Considerations: Leaders of training sessions for parents and students are required, as are teachers willing to provide extensive and frequent feedback to families. Community liaisons are also necessary to facilitate communication between school, families, and community resources. A program coordinator is used to oversee all aspects of the program and ensure that everything is running smoothly.

Cost: No information was identified in the available material.

Evidence of Effectiveness: Three cohorts of students began receiving the ALAS intervention in seventh grade. The first cohort of students received the intervention for three years. Treatment outcomes for students in ninth grade indicated program participants who had IEPs had significantly lower dropout rates compared to the IEP control group. In addition, students who received the intervention and who were in the program longer had lower dropout rates than IEP participants who began in the second year of implementation. When comparing the high-risk, non-IEP program participants to high-risk, non-IEP nonparticipants, the ALAS students had much lower dropout rates (2.2% compared to 16.7%). In general, this study also found that program participants had lower rates of absenteeism, lower percentages of failed classes, and a higher proportion of credits (on track to graduate) when compared to nonparticipants.

Follow-up data were also collected for a cohort of students in eleventh grade. Results showed a higher proportion of students were enrolled in school as compared to students who were not in ALAS. In order for optimal results, the authors of the study advocate for sustained intervention over time (perhaps until graduation), especially given the risk characteristics of this population targeted for intervention.

Manual or Training Available: A bi-lingual trainer is available who can provide on-site training to school and community personnel. Please contact Magda Neil at (818) 957-2742.


Fashola, O. S., & Slavin, R. E. (1998). Effective dropout prevention and college attendance programs for students placed at risk. Journal of Education for Students Placed At Risk, 3(2), 159-183.

Thornton, H. (Ed.) (1995). Staying in school: A technical report of three dropout prevention projects for middle school students with learning and emotional disabilities. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, Institute on Community Integration.

Thurlow, M. L., Christenson, S. L., Sinclair, M. F., Evelo, D. L., & Thornton, H. (1995). Staying in school: Strategies for middle school students with learning and emotional disabilities. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, Institute on Community Integration.

Contact Information:

Katherine Larson
E-mail: larson@education.ucsb.edu


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


E-mail this page
Download PDF
1.19MB, 84 pages
Acrobat Reader required

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, 2025 East River Parkway, Minneapolis, MN 55414, (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.