The Path to Dropping Out: Evidence for Intervention

By Melissa Roderick | Go to book overview
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Chapter 2
School Dropouts:
A Literature Review

Early school leaving is probably the most widely studied educational problem in America. In the 1980s alone, hundreds of books and articles were written on the topic of high school dropouts. What can this substantial literature tell us about the problem school districts face? This chapter presents a brief review of empirical and qualitative studies of school dropout. I begin with a summary of previous research on the personal and social correlates of early school leaving, the characteristics that distinguish dropouts from graduates at or around the time of dropping out, and the reasons students give for leaving school. I then discuss research findings on the extent dropout rates vary by differences in youths' family backgrounds and by the characteristics of the schools.

Empirical research on early school leaving has provided school systems with a detailed set of characteristics that can be used to predict school dropout. Qualitative research on school dropout provides a framework for understanding the interactive process by which poor school performance and social and economic disadvantage can influence school membership. This chapter ends with a discussion of the findings that emerge from qualitative studies of early school leaving.


School Performance and Engagement

When dropouts are asked why they dropped out, they are most likely to state that they left because they were doing poorly and disliked school


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