Dropouts and a Dropout Recovery Program at a Suburban High-poverty High School Near a Large Urban Area
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The decision to drop out of high school is a serious problem for the individual making the decision to drop out, but it also has dramatic implications for their families, their communities, and the economic health of the greater community. As a result, the literature on the causes of dropouts is prolific. However, I find that much of this literature is focused on blaming the students and their families for dropping out of high school. Thankfully, there is also much critique of the mainstream view as to the causes of dropouts. This critique of the mainstream literature places significant blame on our schools for causing students to drop out and considers schools—rather than students—at-risk for failing our students and actually pushing students out of school before they graduate. This critical view of the mainstream viewpoint focuses on the economic, social, and personal issues that cause students to be pushed out of school before they graduate. While this study surveys the mainstream literature on the subject of dropouts, the focus of this study supports the critical approach. The purpose of this qualitative inquiry was to conduct an in-depth study of the students, and dropout prevention and recovery efforts in place at a high-poverty high school during the 2007 through 2013 academic years. A goal of the study was to create a profile of a dropout at the school during that time period and to begin to create a plan that will reduce the number of students who drop out of the high school as well as the other four high schools in the district. Accordingly, for this study I examined quantitative data regarding students who dropped out of a high-poverty high school in order to look for patterns in the data that may help in creating a profile of a dropout at the school. In addition, semi-structured interviews were conducted with professional staff that worked at the school and students who recently attended the school. Half of the students interviewed had not dropped out of high school and the other half chose to drop out. The purpose of the interviews was to hear the perspectives of key individuals who have personally experienced the drop out problem in hopes that their voices would further contribute to the creation of a profile of a dropout and ultimately assist with solutions to the problem. Findings support other research that shows there is no single predictor or indicator of what causes a student to dropout of high school. In fact, the data in the quantitative section about each individual dropout indicate that the dropouts possessed some or several of the typical dropout at-risk indicators such as being poor, have low-academic achievement, being previously retained, having a history of discipline problems, and having high absenteeism. While some of the students I interviewed possessed some of these same characteristics, not all did and in fact, interview data indicate that each student saw the importance of graduating and were frustrated that school and personal circumstances prevented this accomplishment. Another finding was that the adult interview data indicated traces of deficit thinking in how they were addressing the dropouts from their schools. Solutions suggested include addressing the deficit thinking, academic programming, and systems that need to be in place in order to better assist students who are at-risk for dropping out of high school.
Butler, Pamela W (2013). Dropouts and a Dropout Recovery Program at a Suburban High-poverty High School Near a Large Urban Area. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from