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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: This prevention program was developed by researchers at the University of Montréal to decrease the rate of dropout by specifically addressing disruptive behavior of boys in elementary grades. The model was originally funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Conseil Québécois de la Recherche Sociale, and the Quebec Government’s Fonds Concerté pour l’Aide à la Recherche.

Intervention Description: This program is designed to reduce student disruptiveness in the elementary grades that could lead to non-age-appropriate regular classroom placement (being held back in a grade or retained) and subsequent dropping out of school. Fundamental elements of the model include social-skills training, problem-solving skills training, and social-cognitive skills training provided within the school setting. A training component for parents simultaneously focuses on building and enhancing management skills in the home.

The elementary social-skills training model has two main components. The first component involves the students. Boys who have been designated at-risk (based on teacher-reported scores on a behavior measure) participate in an intervention program over a period of two years. The students work on social and problem-solving skills in small groups of five to eight students. Four to six of the boys in the group are teacher-nominated individuals considered to be pro-social, while one or two of the boys are targeted for intervention. The intent is to provide positive role models who exhibit appropriate behavior for students who are targeted for the intervention. In addition, the inclusion of pro-social individuals is intended to ensure that the targeted individuals are not labeled by classmates as receiving special services. These small groups meet two times a week for two years during school hours (generally November through April), with each session lasting 45 minutes. During these sessions, positive reinforcement, verbal instructions, and modeling are used to teach specific skills. In addition, there are regular meetings between the professionals implementing the sessions and the classroom teachers. These meetings are meant to facilitate communication, monitor progress in the classroom, and create reinforcement opportunities to help increase positive behavior.

The second component of the model is a curriculum for working with parents on management skills. Parents of the boys identified as at-risk for dropout received training sessions in their homes. The same individuals who conduct the sessions at school conduct these home sessions. Some of the lessons include information about how to set appropriate behavioral expectations and clear objectives for their children, how to recognize problem behaviors, how to use reinforcement to encourage appropriate behaviors, and how to manage or provide consequences for inappropriate behaviors. Problem-solving skills for addressing family crises were also taught. In addition, parents were encouraged to provide support and supervise their children’s schoolwork and behavior outside of the home.

Participants & Setting: The social-skills training model was created for use with boys from low socioeconomic status (SES) families. The intervention portion of the program was created for implementation during the second and third grades (typically ages seven to nine), while data collection and follow-up occurred beginning in kindergarten and continued until age 17. Students were referred to the program based on information gathered using the Social Behavior Questionnaire (SBQ), which was completed by their kindergarten teachers. The boys who participated scored at the 70th percentile or above on the SBQ. All of the parents who participated were French-speaking and had less than 14 years of schooling. The model has been used with Caucasian boys from low-SES areas of Montréal.

Implementation Considerations: The individuals who conducted the school sessions with the children and the parent trainings were professionals such as child-care workers, social workers, and psychologists. They were responsible for conducting the group sessions, speaking with the students’ teachers concerning progress in the classroom, and conducting the parental management-skills training sessions in the boys’ homes.

Cost: No information was identified in the available material.

Evidence of Effectiveness: Studies of effectiveness examined whether the social-skills program for students used along with the parent component could reduce disruptive behaviors in the short term and non-age-appropriate classroom placement and subsequent dropout in the long term. Results from one study that examined the impact of this model on prevention of later school dropout indicated the program had an indirect effect on later dropout. Children who had received the intervention services were less disruptive than the control group and showed a decreased likelihood of being retained or placed in a special education classroom. Results suggested the program had an indirect effect on later school dropout through its impact on grade retention. In fact, the risk of dropout decreased by more than half for program participants, and the odds of dropout in late adolescence were more than four times higher for children who were retained.

Manual or Training Available: A manual that explains the parent component and social-skills training is available in French.


Vitaro, F., Brendgen, M., & Tremblay, R. E. (1999). Prevention of school dropout through the reduction of disruptive behaviors and school failure in elementary school. Journal of School Psychology, 37(2), 205-226.

Contact Information:

Helene Beauchesne
Phone: 514-345-2182
E-mail: helene.beauchesne@umontreal.ca

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.