ERIC Identifier: ED259215 Publication Date: 1985-00-00
Author: Thiel, Kathleen K. Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Adult Career and Vocational Education Columbus OH.
Reentry Programs for Dropouts in Adult Settings. Overview. ERIC
Digest No. 45.
Young adults confront various developmental issues as they move from
adolescence into adulthood. Merriam (1984) discusses three issues involving
psychological development: independence, identity, and intimacy. Besides coping
with psychological and sociological issues associated with maturity, many young
adults face stigmas attached to the fact that they are school dropouts.
CHARACTERISTICS OF DROPOUTS
Research reveals that dropouts exhibit similar cognitive and affective
characteristics. Weber and Silvani-Lacey (1983) report that dropouts scored
lower on intelligence tests (mean IQ of 90), had repeated at least one grade,
had limited academic success accompanied by poor academic performance, and had
demonstrated poor reading and communications skills.
Affectively, dropouts were loners who felt alienated from their school
environment, peers, and teachers; were not accepted or respected by their
teachers; generally lacked interest in school and school work; had a low
self-concept as reflected in lack of self-satisfaction and social maturity; and
exhibited actions that were either hostile and unruly or passive and apathetic.
Other trends among the dropouts included low family income, excessive
absenteeism, and lack of parental encouragement.
Buckingham (1984), noting that undereducated young adults are both a burden
and a cost to society, drew a correlation between the characteristics of these
individuals and their inability to gain employment. He emphasized that young
adults are disadvantaged by their poor social adjustment, inability to relate to
authority figures, lack of future orientation, and inability to tolerate
structured activities. They have battered self-images, fear taking risks, and
are deficient in skills needed for survival in today's technological society.
Furthermore, in a society in which the school completion rate is nearly 80
percent, those who do not achieve a high school diploma are at a distinct
disadvantage. Undereducated young adults find it difficult to avail themselves
of further education, take part in training programs, or secure entry-level jobs
without a high school diploma.
PERSPECTIVES ON REENTRY OF YOUNG ADULTS
Smith (1984) discusses a community college high school completion program for
adults. Generally, the young adults in this program viewed their dropping out of
high school as a "derailment" in their lives and wanted to obtain a diploma not
only to ease family pressures, but also to become marketable in the employment
arena. They perceived of themselves as being able to succeed in the program
without attending every class or completing every assignment. They had a cynical
view of high school completion, considering it a "rite of passage." Despite the
fact that young adults did not display a "learning for learning's sake"
attitude, they did enjoy being with the older adults in the program who provided
them encouragement and support.
Initially the older students tended to categorize young dropouts as
troublemakers, although they perceived those in the high school completion
program more favorably. They felt that for the academically sound student,
dropping out of a "problem" school was a smart move, and they sought to support
The counseling staff viewed the younger students as immature, but felt they
were best served by being treated as adults. Counselors perceived that school
completion was a pressing need for these students who wanted to put high school
behind them and rid themselves of their troubling emotional baggage.
TYPES OF PROGRAMS AVAILABLE FOR OUT-OF-SCHOOL YOUTH
Programs available for out-of-school youths range from those sponsored by
community colleges and public schools to those offered by educational agencies
in conjunction with employment and training programs. Smith (1984) reports that
young adults increasingly tend to enroll in such adult education programs as
adult basic education and high school completion in an effort to "get back on
PROGRAMS SPONSORED BY TECHNICAL SCHOOLS
Technical school programs combine basic skills instruction with occupational
training. Programs of this nature are designed to address needs of less
advantaged adults and to provide a high-quality, humanistic education to people
who have dropped out of or have been expelled from traditional schools.
Buckingham (1984) outlines major tenets involved with integrating basic
education with job training:
--Employ a staff committed and dedicated to understanding the issues and
problems facing the students
--Design a highly structured program that is flexible enough to accommodate
--Utilize assessment procedures and intake interviews
--Provide immediate feedback
--Design a high-interest, low-level curriculum that focuses on life skills
--Develop linkages with area agencies and educational institutions
--Operate as a service-oriented agency
Baker (1983) reports on a program that dealt with obstacles preventing
enrollment at a local community college: transportation, conflicting work hours,
socioeconomic factors. Basic skills instruction was provided to middle-aged
workers, senior citizens, and youth who had dropped out of traditional education
programs. In this instance, the college convinced community leaders that group
meeting places such as community centers, churches, and businesses could be
converted into learning centers.
In addition, the college decided to integrate an instructional delivery
system to include three mechanisms external to the college: a site where
instruction could be delivered, unserved adult learners, and portable mobile
vans with educational materials and staffed by instructional personnel. The
college purchased and converted two vans into student-managed curriculum
facilities that housed curriculum, records, and supplies.
A facilitator and several volunteers comprised the teaching team. The staff
assisted the adults with planning their programs and with record keeping. In
addition, instructional and community resource people were brought in to work
with the adults. This team approach provided flexibility and relevance without
sacrificing traditional curricula standards.
There were three keys to the success of this program. First, it created a
positive learning experience for the adults. They could rapidly acquire basic
skills and then use them effectively to solve personal and work-related
problems. Second, the student-managed aspect sought to persuade adults to commit
a scheduled time to the program. Third, the program helped the adults obtain a
job if they were unemployed or to compete for a better job if they were
CONTINUING EDUCATION HIGH SCHOOL PROGRAMS
Continuing education high school programs are often under the sponsorship of
public school systems. A report issued by the Columbus (Ohio) Public Schools
(1983) describes a program designed as an alternative educational opportunity
for students between the ages of 16 and 22. Eligible young adults include
individuals with excessive absenteeism or the inability to cope in the
traditional school environment, individuals who dropped out of school and lacked
sufficient skills to be self-supporting, and individuals presently enrolled in
high school but unable to take desired courses due to scheduling conflicts.
The school provides for flexible, individualized scheduling of educational
programs, career education and job skill training, basic skills instruction,
college preparatory level courses, counseling, and job placement.
A key to the success of this type of program is the staff. Staff members who
are an asset to continuing education programs possess certain characteristics.
Among these are concern about individual student needs, flexibility in their
approach to instruction, skill at developing competency-based instruction, a
willingness to change and keep updated by attending staff development programs,
and the interpersonal skills necessary for working with young adults.
CHARACTERISTICS OF SUCCESSFUL PROGRAMS
Darkenwald and Knox (1984) suggest the following as attributes of successful
--A sensitivity to the stresses that young adults face and to the inner
turmoils that they are experiencing
--A warm, flexible environment that bears little resemblance to the
structured atmosphere and social climate of traditional high school settings
--Clear understanding of what teachers expect of students and of what
students can expect from teachers
--An instructional program for each student which provides constructive,
continous feedback and flexibility within a structured approach
--A curriculum relevant to the needs of the students
--Informal counseling on an individual and group basis
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Baker, G. "Serving Undereducated Adults: Community as Learning Center." NEW
DIRECTIONS FOR CONTINUING EDUCATION 20 (December 1983):31-42.
Buckingham, W. J. "Integrating Basic Skills Education with Job Training." NEW
DIRECTIONS FOR CONTINUING EDUCATION 21 (March 1984):79-87.
Columbus Public Schools. CONTINUING EDUCATION HIGH SCHOOL. Columbus, OH:
Division of Student Development Service, Department of Adult Education, 1983.
Darkenwald, G., and A. Knox. "Themes and Issues in Programming for Young
Adults." NEW DIRECTIONS FOR CONTINUING EDUCATION 21 (March 1984):99-105.
Merriam, S. "Developmental Issues and Tasks of Young Adults." NEW DIRECTIONS
FOR CONTINUING EDUCATION 21 (March 1984):41-54.
Smith, F. "High School Equivalency Preparation for Recent Dropouts." NEW
DIRECTIONS FOR CONTINUING EDUCATION 21 (March 1984):41-54.
Weber, J., and C. Silvani-Lacey. BUILDING BASIC SKILLS: THE DROPOUT. Research
and Development Series no. 236. Columbus: The National Center for Research in
Vocational Education, The Ohio State University, 1983. ED 232 014.