Policy and Research Implications
In the previous chapter I argued that the findings of this study, in the context of research on the role of school experiences in shaping development processes, can be used to develop a new framework for thinking about the nature of school dropout in systems with high dropout rates. To briefly summarize, I argue that, for an important group of dropouts, the individual manifestations of school leaving and the academic processes that lead to school withdrawal can be linked to, and are influenced by, aspects of the policies, organization, and structures of schools. The conclusion of this research is that school systems can look to their own policies for ways that promote or inhibit attachment across students' school careers. Perhaps the best way to illustrate the implications of this framework for policy is to end this book with a discussion of the policy implications of my findings regarding the impact of both school transitions and grade retention.
One of the questions that motivated this study was: Are there critical points in students' school careers during which intervention may reduce the chances of early school leaving? The school transitions from both elementary to middle school and from middle school to high school emerge as critical junctures for youths. There is also some evidence, from an evaluation of the School Transitional Environment Project, that intervention following the school move to high school may be effective in stemming grade losses and in decreasing the chances that students will drop out. I discuss the results of this evaluation later in this chapter.