ERIC Identifier: ED282347
Publication Date: 1985-00-00
Author: Nelson, Erik
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Educational Management Eugene OR.

Dropout Prevention. ERIC Clearinghouse on Educational Management: ERIC Digest, Number Fourteen.

High dropout rates among high school students remain a blight on school systems across the country. School officials recognize the burden placed on society by large numbers of students who lack necessary educational and social skills. Educators, however, are using a variety of methods to encourage students to stay in school.


The National Center for Education Statistics estimates that about 14 percent of students who were sophomores in l980 dropped out of school by l982. This percentage represents over one-half million students.

A breakdown of subgroups indicates that males are more likely to drop out than females (15 vs. 13 percent). Hispanics and blacks (l8 and 17 percent, respectively) had higher dropout rates than whites.

The Center for Human Resource Research, in a longitudinal study conducted from l979 through l982, points out that some dropouts reenroll and get a diploma, while others graduate by virtue of passing a GED examination. Of 25.5 million students who graduated by l982, 6.3 percent held a GED rather than a diploma.


School dropouts tend to fall into the general pattern of academic underachievement and social and emotional problems. Dropouts generally perform below grade level and have problems making social adjustments. Many dropouts also are eligible for special education programs or services.

Characteristics of typical dropouts include:

--A belief that high school is a different, more difficult experience than grade school

--A history of transferring schools or changing school systems

--A feeling of not sharing a sense of "belonging" to the high school as a whole

--A tendency to avoid talking with school personnel about dropping out because they doubt it will help or because they do not know whom to contact

--A feeling of losing interest in school and a belief that school personnel have lost interest in them

--A belief they possess too many problems to successfully complete their education

--Family problems such as divorce, death, separation, abuse

--Situations in which other family members drop out of school


After dropping out, adolescents show even higher rates of problem behaviors, isolation from their families, and unemployment. Statistics reinforce the argument that high school dropouts have more trouble getting jobs than do graduates. Labor Department figures show that unemployment rates for high school dropouts jumped from l9 percent at the end of l970 to 25.3 percent at the end of l980, while unemployment for high school graduates rose only from ll.5 percent to l3.9 percent.

Adolescents who quit before finishing high school are less able to provide for themselves and much more likely to become burdens on society. As one principal put it, "Instead of talking tax dollars for dropout programs, let's talk welfare, let's talk Aid to Dependent Children, let's talk about all the money society will have to pay for these kids if they can do nothing when they leave high school."


Schools dedicated to dropout prevention tend to cite four main activities as central to any formula for prevention: seeking funding for dropout prevention programs, developing links with community agencies that can help schools in guiding teachers and students to appropriate services, identifying and working with organizations that can help students improve their academic environment, and preparing research and information on how schools, homes, and the community can combat the dropout problem.

Additional methods for preventing dropouts include:

--Emphasizing support programs operating in schools --Encouraging co-curricular activities for as many students as possible --Increasing the information supplied to students about dealing with the school system --Increasing structured group meetings for high-risk students within the school setting --Increasing alternative classes, work programs, and correspondence classes --Allowing students who could realistically function better elsewhere to transfer to a different school --Encouraging families of troubled students to seek family support and counseling from professional agencies --Recognizing potential dropouts as special education candidates --Maintaining a night school program --Making homebound tutoring available to as many high-risk students as possible --Contacting students a week after they have dropped out and presenting them with the opportunity to change their mind


EXPO, the Experimental Program for Orientation at Gateway High School in Aurora, Colorado, is representative of effective programs that identify potential dropouts early and help keep them in school. Initially, the program tried to help high school juniors and seniors who were about to leave school. But most of these students dropped out regardless of teacher support. The teachers participating in EXPO began to investigate what went wrong.

The teachers soon discovered the problem was too little, too late. They adopted a different strategy and identified early those eighth grade students who were potential dropouts. The organizers of EXPO stressed two key procedural rules: (1) students would be invited to volunteer for the program (no one was to be coerced into participating), and (2) students enrolled in special education programs were excluded (because they were already receiving special attention). The invitations to students stressed that EXPO was designed to assist students in the orientation to high school life.

The results of EXPO after only one year were impressive. EXPO students earned grade point averages nearly a full point higher than potential dropouts not enrolled in EXPO. EXPO students were truant an average of l7 class hours compared with the 96.5 class hours for students not enrolled in EXPO. Only one EXPO student dropped out of school.


Batsche, Catherine. "Indicators of Effective Programming: Examining the School Work Transition for Dropouts." JOURNAL FOR VOCATIONAL SPECIAL NEEDS EDUCATION 7 (Spring l985):27-30.

Beck, Lisa, and Joseph A. Muia. "A Portrait of a Tragedy: Research Findings on the Dropout." HIGH SCHOOL JOURNAL 64 (November l980):68-72.

Mahan, Guy, and Charles Johnson. "Dealing with Academic, Social, and Emotional Problems." NAASP BULLETIN 67 (April l983):80-83.

Mahood, Wayne. "Born Losers: School Dropouts and Pushouts." NAASP BULLETIN 65 (January l981):54-57.

Maurer, Richard D. "Dropout Prevention: An ntervention Model for Today's High Schools." PHI DELTA KAPPAN 63 (March l982):70-71.

Ross, Victor J. "Find Potential Dropouts Early, Then Help Them Stay in School." EXECUTIVE EDUCATOR 5 (June l983):l6-l7.

Uhrmacher, P. Bruce. "Use the Step-by-Step Approach to Reduce the Student Dropout Rate." AMERICAN SCHOOL BOARD JOURNAL 172 (April l985):40-4l.

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