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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 Intervention?

Sample Dropout Intervention Program


Background: The Ninth Grade Dropout Prevention Program (NGP) was first used in six high schools in the Pasco County School District in Florida during the 1987-88 school year. Ninth grade was selected based on literature indicating that most students who ultimately drop out of school do so during their first two years of high school.

Intervention Description: As the name indicates, NGP focuses on preventing school dropout. Fundamental goals of the program include meeting students’ academic needs, creating a caring atmosphere for students, and providing relevant and challenging curriculum. Strategies for meeting these goals are carried out mainly by teachers, but also with the help of administrators and peer tutors.

Each school designs an intervention plan to achieve the goals of the program. A summary of services offered across the district showed plans focused on academics, study skills, socialization, and attendance, and offered an orientation component. Creating a positive school climate and promoting feelings of belonging to the school environment via positive relationships with teachers and peers are key foundational constructs.

To promote academics, several strategies such as tutorial services (e.g., homework hotline, teacher assistance, peer tutoring program), teaming/cooperative planning (e.g., establishing ninth-grade teams, regular team meetings, paraprofessionals used to assist teams), and staff development (e.g., teacher in-service on NGP and dropout research, regular faculty meetings) are utilized. Other academic components may include adjustment for classroom characteristics (e.g., ability grouping, smaller class sizes, freshmen-only classes), program monitoring (e.g., feedback from students, teachers, and teams to program administrator; morning parent conferences; surveys of parents, teachers, and students), administrative support (e.g., program monitoring by assistant principal), and facilities support (e.g., common locker locations for freshmen, phone available for parent contact).

The orientation program component of the model includes services for students (e.g., NGP information during registration, buddy system, freshmen class meeting at the beginning of the year), parents (e.g., letters and phone calls describing NGP, quarterly newsletters), and staff (e.g., overview of NGP program before the start of the school year). Teachers and administrators are expected to attend these events to help with the promotion of positive teacher and staff relationships with students.

Study skills are emphasized through the use of a reading specialist (e.g., emphasis on reading skills in each course, assistance for ninth graders to prepare for academic contests), peer involvement (e.g., peer teachers available before and after school, NGP newsletter with study skills hints), and team involvement (e.g., writing enhancement programs).

Socialization is addressed by attending to student concerns (e.g., teachers as advisors, awards for academic success and appropriate behavior, club and/or newsletter, regular freshmen class meetings) and parent concerns (e.g., NGP newsletter, open house and conference night).

Finally, attendance is emphasized in a variety of ways and may include teaming/cooperative planning (e.g., early identification of potential dropouts, referral to social worker, motivation posters and films, awards for good attendance) and parental involvement (e.g., automated calling for attendance, parent letters sent for student absences). School staff are expected to react quickly to indications of poor attendance, and parents are notified when students are truant.

Participants & Setting: The program is specifically intended for students entering ninth grade. Students are selected for participation through a random drawing from the school population. Those students who are already in programs such as Compensatory Education or Exceptional Student Education have typically been excluded from participation in the program. NGP has been implemented in a rural district in Florida.

Implementation Considerations: Teachers are the primary staff for the program. Teachers are organized into ninth-grade teams to plan lessons and discuss intervention strategies. These teams are also expected to meet with the assistant principal of the school to discuss how the program is functioning. An in-service session on NGP and dropout research is provided; teachers participating in the program are expected to attend. The assistant principal of the school monitors program implementation and works with the teachers, as well as obtains feedback from students and parents about how well the program is functioning. Peer tutors and mentors are also utilized in this program.

Cost: No information was identified in the available material.

Evidence of Effectiveness: The original purpose of this program was to prevent school dropout and promote academic success. One study that examined the effectiveness of NGP was conducted, and results indicated a significant increase in student attendance across three years of implementation. The effect of NGP was strongest on student attendance. Students who participated in the program had an increase in attendance from 89.6% in the baseline year to 95.6% in the third year of the program. Results also showed the proportion of students who continued in school increased over three years, while the proportion of students who dropped out significantly decreased. The rate of dropout was significantly less among program participants as compared to data for nonparticipants.

Manual or Training Available: No information was identified in the available material.


Pearson, L. C., & Banerji, M. (1993). Effects of a ninth-grade dropout prevention program on student academic achievement, school attendance, and dropout rate. Journal of Experimental Education, 61(3), 247-256.

Contact Information:

L. Carolyn Pearson
University of West Florida
11000 University Parkway, Building 77
Pensacola, FL 32514
Phone: 850-474-3236
E-mail: cpearson@uwf.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


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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.