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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?

Sample Dropout Intervention Program


Background: The Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program (VYP) was created in 1984 by the Intercultural Development Research Association with funding from Coca-Cola USA. It was originally used in five school districts in San Antonio, Texas, from 1984 to 1988. The model is currently being replicated nationally and internationally through support from the Coca-Cola Foundation, various other foundations, and through funds provided through a district’s own initiative.

Intervention Description: By carrying out the VYP creed that “all students are valuable; none are expendable,” VYP has helped more than 14,000 students stay in school. The premise of the program is that secondary students at risk of dropping out serve as tutors of elementary students who have also been identified as being in at-risk situations. Through this tutoring process, VYP seeks to increase the self-esteem and school success of middle and high school students and, in turn, decrease the likelihood of dropout.

VYP is based on seven key tenets that articulate the philosophy of the project. Among these tenets are that all students can learn, the school values all students, and all students can actively contribute to their own and others’ education. These tenets provide strength for the program elements, which include both instructional and support strategies. The instructional strategies consist of classes for tutors, tutoring sessions, field trips, role models, and student recognition. Support strategies are comprised of curriculum, coordination, staff enrichment, family involvement, and education.

While students are tutors in the program, they participate in a special tutoring class that serves to improve their basic academic and tutoring skills. Each student works with three elementary students at one time for a minimum of four hours each week. The student tutors are paid a minimum-wage stipend for their work and attend functions held to honor and recognize them as role models to the younger students. At these functions, the student tutors receive gifts such as t-shirts, hats, and certificates of merit for their accomplishments. By helping to increase the students’ sense of pride and self-awareness, students have fewer discipline problems and fewer absences. This, in turn, creates a positive impact on school success and lowers school dropout rates.

Participants & Setting: The students who participate in this program are middle and high school students (grades 7 to 12) who are considered to be at-risk. Most of the participants in the San Antonio programs were Latino with limited English proficiency. Many of these participants also qualified for free and reduced lunch prices and/or had been retained a grade in school.

During the 2002-03 school year, 108 schools in 24 cities in the United States (Arizona, California, New Mexico, New York, and Texas) and Brazil participated in the Coca-Cola VYP. These schools have been in both urban and suburban settings. The program has also been implemented in Great Britain.

Implementation Considerations: Once a district decides to implement VYP, a program administrator (district level representative) is needed to oversee its progress. A secondary and elementary school are then selected to participate in the project. An implementation team is organized and comprised of the secondary and elementary principals, a teacher coordinator (secondary teacher), an elementary teacher representative, an evaluation liaison, and parent liaison.

Teacher coordinators aid the tutors in developing tutoring skills, self-awareness, and pride, as well as increasing literacy skills. The evaluation liaison serves to monitor the program’s progress and to assess its outcomes. Lastly, a family liaison connects the school and home to support the student and to advance the program in the community.

Cost: The cost of implementing the program, based on 25 tutors and 75 tutees, ranges from $150 to $250 per student. This cost incorporates staff training, technical assistance, tutor stipends, recognition awards, and evaluation.

Evidence of Effectiveness: VYP implements a comprehensive evaluation design for assessing the program’s effectiveness and impact. Both qualitative and quantitative measures are used in the evaluation of the program. The primary goal of VYP is to reduce the school dropout rate of students who are at-risk of dropping out of school. Since the program’s inception, less than 2% of participating students have dropped out of school. In addition, the program has had a positive impact on other indicators for students. Improvements in grades, achievement test scores, attendance, discipline action, self-concept, and attitudes toward school have been found in those participating in VYP.

In a longitudinal study of San Antonio-area programs, the dropout rates for participants were significantly lower than the comparison group and national rates. For example, participants had a much lower rate of school dropout two years after the program was implemented. While 12% of the comparison students had dropped out in that time, only 1% of VYP participants had dropped out. It was also discovered that reading grades were significantly higher for program participants, as were scores for self-esteem and attitude toward school.

Manual or Training Available: Materials that include implementation guides are available for the program administrator, secondary principal, elementary principal, teacher/coordinator, evaluation liaison, and the elementary receiving teachers. Training, technical assistance, and evaluation are provided by the Intercultural Development Research Association.


Cárdenas, J. A., Robledo Montecel, M., Supik, J. D., & Harris, R. J. (1992). The Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program: Dropout prevention strategies for at-risk students. Texas Researcher, 3, 111-130.

Cueller, L. (1996, July/August). Mr. Espinosa’s lessons. HOPE Magazine, 3, 78-84.

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.

Intercultural Development Research Association (1998). Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program. Retrieved December 17, 2003, from http://www.idra.org/ccvyp/default.htm

National Diffusion Network (n.d.). Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program. Washington, DC: Author.

Supik, J. D. (1994, September). The Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program: An idea that works. IDRA Newsletter, 3, 16-17.

Vaznaugh, A. (1995). Dropout intervention and language minority youth. Washington, DC: ERIC Clearinghouse on Language and Linguistics. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED379951).

Contact Information:

Linda Cantu, Program Director
Education Associate, Division of Professional Development
5835 Callaghan Road, Suite 350
San Antonio, TX 78228
Phone: 210-444-1710
Fax: 210-444-1714
E-mail: linda.cantu@idra.org

Web site: http://www.idra.org/ccvyp/

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, 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.