Dropouts: Why do students drop out of school and what might help them to stay? - FAQ

Dropouts: Why do students drop out of school and what might help them to stay?

The ABCs of Keeping On Track to Graduation: Research Findings from Baltimore
Purpose: The study probes the relationship between 8th and 9th grade early warning indicators as predictors of graduation outcomes, as well as the relationship between 9th grade indicators and college enrollment outcomes.
Issue/Topic: At-Risk (incl. Dropout Prevention)
Author(s): MacIver, Martha; Messel, Matthew
Publication: Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk
Published on: 2/5/2013

  • Equipping schools to implement interventions to address chronic absenteeism and course failure in 9th grade is a crucial strategy for increasing both high school graduation and college enrollment.  
  • The strongest predictors...

Preventing Youth Violence and Dropout: A Randomized Field Experiment
Purpose: To determine whether an intervention that includes regular exposure to pro-social adults, after-school programming and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) affects outcomes in disadvantaged youth, and which elements of the intervention matter most.
Issue/Topic: At-Risk (incl. Dropout Prevention); School Safety
Author(s): Ludwig, Jens; Heller, Sara; Pollack, Harold; Ander, Roseanna
Organization(s): National Bureau of Economic Research
Publication: National Bureau of Economic Research
Published on: 1/1/2013
Findings/Results: The intervention program consisted of regular exposure to pro-social adults, after-school programming and -- perhaps the most novel ingredient -- cognitive behaviorial therapy (CBT). CBT is a short-duration intervention from psychology that helps people r...

Cost-Effectiveness Analysis of Interventions that Improve High School Completion
Purpose: To describe the tool of cost-effectiveness analysis, to identify methodological challenges in its application, to present cost-effectiveness cost analyses of several programs, to demonstrate how cost-effectiveness comparisons can be used to inform decision-makers.
Issue/Topic: At-Risk (incl. Dropout Prevention); High School
Author(s): Belfield, Clive; Bowden, A.; Cheng, Henan; Hanisch-Cerda, Barbara; Hollands, Fiona; Levin, Henry; Pan, Yilin; Shand, Robert
Organization(s): Teachers College, Columbia University
Publication: Teachers College, Columbia University
Published on: 1/1/2012
  • The cost to produce each extra high school completer through educational reforms such as interventions studied here are very high, ranging from $70,000 to $195,000 per completer excluding Talent Search.
  • Broadly, of the class of pr...

Effects of Charter High Schools on Educational Attainment, The
Purpose: To determine whether charter high schools increase the likelihood that a student will complete high school and attend college.
Issue/Topic: Choice of Schools--Charter Schools
Author(s): Booker, Kevin; Gill, Brian; Sass, Tim; Zimmer, Ron
Organization(s): Mathematica Policy Research Inc.; The Florida State University; Vanderbilt University
Publication: Journal of Labor Economics
Published on: 3/1/2011

Charter schools are associated with a higher probability of successful high school completion and an increased likelihood of attending a 2-year or 4-year college in two dissimilar jurisdictions, Florida and Chicago.


  • 57%...

Focusing on the Participation and Engagement Gap: A Case Study on Closing the Achievement Gap
Purpose: To determine whether altering student attendance and student engagement contributes to closing the achievement gap.
Issue/Topic: Attendance; Student Achievement--Closing the Achievement Gap
Author(s): Fisher, Douglas; Frey, Nancy; Lapp, Diane
Organization(s): Health Sciences High & Middle College
Publication: Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk
Published on: 1/1/2011

Upon implementing a school-wide intervention to improve student attendance and achievement, the pass rates for Health Sciences High & Middle College students have increased steadily over the past three years and have outpaced students in t...

Evaluating the Relationship Between Student Attendance and Achievement in Urban Elementary and Middle Schools: An Instrumental Variables Approach
Purpose: To explore to what degree student attendance is related to both grade point average (GPA) and standardized testing outcomes.
Author(s): Gottfried, Michael
Organization(s): University of Pennsylvania
Publication: American Educational Research Journal
Published on: 1/1/2010

The findings support the premise that a significant and practically meaningful relationship exists between attendance and achievement across multiple grades in urban schools: students with a higher number of days present have higher GPAs. Attendance al...

Review of Empirical Evidence About School Size Effects: A Policy Perspective
Purpose: To determine the impact of school size on an array of different student and organizational outcomes.
Issue/Topic: School/District Structure/Operations--School Size
Author(s): Jantzi, Doris; Leithwood, Kenneth
Organization(s): American Educational Research Association; Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto
Publication: Review of Educational Research
Published on: 3/1/2009
  • Smaller schools are generally better for most purposes.
  • Smaller does not mean "really small." Smaller is a relative term. For example, in districts with secondary school size exceeding 2,500, smaller can mean as m...

What Types of Students' Effort Are Rewarded with High Marks?
Purpose: To investigate the relationship among achievement, effort and grades.
Issue/Topic: Student Achievement; Youth Engagement
Author(s): Kelly, Sean
Publication: Sociology of Education
Published on: 1/4/2008


  • In addition to achievement, effort and participation in class are important predictors of the...

School Structural Characteristics, Student Effort, Peer Associations, and Parental Involvement
Purpose: To investigate the individual-level influences and school structural characteristics associated with academic achievement using a national sample of 10th-grade students.
Issue/Topic: At-Risk (incl. Dropout Prevention)
Author(s): Stewart, Endya
Publication: Education and Urban Society
Published on: 12/1/2007
Findings/Results: Results:
The following appear to have positive effects on student achievement (as reflected by grade point averages):

  • Higher levels of effort, as measured by school attachment and school commitment
  • Pos...

Preventing Student Disengagement in Middle Schools
Purpose: Do many students in high-poverty schools become disengaged at the start of the middle grades? How early does this occur? Does this disengagement reduce the likelihood that they will eventually graduate? Are there indicators schools can easily use to identify 6th graders who are beginning to disengage from schooling in a significant and consequential manner? How large a role does student disengagement play?
Issue/Topic: At-Risk (incl. Dropout Prevention); High School; High School--Dropout Rates/Graduation Rates; Middle School
Author(s): Balfanz, Robert; Herzog, Lisa; Mac Iver, Douglas
Organization(s): Philadelphia Education Fund
Publication: Educational Psychologist
Published on: 9/1/2007
Four big risk factors
  • Four variables met criteria of having high predictive powe...

What Matters for Staying On-Track and Graduating in Chicago Public High Schools
Purpose: Looks at students' performance in their coursework during their freshman year, how it is related to eventual graduation, and how personal and school factors contribute to success or failure in freshman-year courses. Pulls apart a variety of indicators of freshman course performance -- including student failures, absences and overall grades -- to learn what matters for a successful freshman year.
Issue/Topic: At-Risk (incl. Dropout Prevention); Attendance; Attendance--Truancy; High School
Author(s): Allensworth, Elaine; Easton, John
Organization(s): Consortium on Chicago School Research University of Chicago
Published on: 6/1/2007

Course Failures Matter

  • Course failures and overall GPA are strongly related. However, among students with the same number of Fs, higher grades in other courses increase the likelihood of...

Dropping Out of High School: The Role of School Organization and Structure
Purpose: To determine the reasons students drop out of high school and how schools influence students' decisions. The study explores the link between school organization or structure and students' decisions to stay in school or drop out.
Issue/Topic: At-Risk (incl. Dropout Prevention)
Author(s): Burkam, David; Lee, Valerie
Organization(s): University of Michigan
Publication: American Educational Research Journal
Published on: 6/1/2003

Student background and dropping out (social relations)


Dropout Process in Life Course Perspective: Early Risk Factors at Home and School (The)
Purpose: To understand what distinguishes youth in our large cities who leave school before graduating from those who stay in school -- to understand what factors place them at risk of dropping out and to identify resources potentially within their reach that might mitigate this risk. The project's long time frame and broad purview enable the authors to explore, from a life course perspective, sources of risk and resilience in these young people's lives.
Issue/Topic: At-Risk (incl. Dropout Prevention); High School
Author(s): Alexander, Karl; Entwisle, Doris; Kabbani, Nader
Publication: Teachers College Record
Published on: 9/1/2001
How Big is the Problem?
  • Dropout status could be determined for 92.3% of the original cohort. According the these self-reports, 41.6% of the group dropped out at some point.
  • Sixty percent of...

Does Compulsory School Attendance Affect Schooling and Earnings?
Purpose: To investigate the impact of compulsory schooling laws in the United States and to determine whether students who attend school longer because of compulsory schooling receive higher earnings as a result of their increased schooling.
Issue/Topic: Attendance--Compulsory
Author(s): Angrist, Joshua; Krueger, Alan
Publication: Quarterly Journal of Economics
Published on: 9/1/1991
  • The interaction of school entry requirements and compulsory schooling laws compel students born in certain months to attend school longer than students born in other months.
  • Season of birth is related to educational attainment for thos...

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