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Full text of "ERIC ED328851: Dropouts: Strategies for Prevention. A National Perspective. Policy Briefs. Number 1."

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Number 1 • 1989 

Policy Briefs 

A Puhltr.ttiofi of thr North Crf) Ht'tjionul Liiuationjl L.tljor.ttory 

■^^csisjiwo""*^ Dropouts: 

•^-^ i>M tmton or orotmtad^ 

Strategies for Prevention 

. A National Perspective 




Policy Briefs 
are reports 
on the status of 
current issues 
in education 
from a national 
descriptions of 
actions and 
agendas in the 
NCREL region, 
by experts from 
their particular 
point of view, 
and resources 




by Todd Fenniniore, NCREL 

Distressingly large numbers of 
youth today are showing signs of aliena- 
tion and having difficulty making the 
transition into a productive adult life. 
Dropping out of school, substance 
abuse, truancy, depression, delinquency, 
and teenage pregnancy all are symptoms 
of the alienation. The nation's leaders, 
educators, parents, the media, and the 
business community have expressed 
great concern about this alienation and 
its manifestations. 

Dropping out is especially problematic 
because the sectors that once employed 
dropouts (small farms and smokestack 
industries) can no longer absorb them. 
Asoureconomy continues its move from 
goods production to information proc- 
essing, more jobs will require higher 
levels of education. Dropouts will be 
shut out of tomorrow's high technology 
workplace and excluded from active 
participation in a complex democracy as 
well (U.S. Department of Labor, 1988). 

A disproportionate nnmbcr of those al- 
ready maiginal in our .society, iJie poor 
and minority .leave school before gradu- 
ation. School dropout rates for students 
from poor families are almost twice those 
reported for the population average 
(Catterall&Cota-Roblos, 1988). Demo- 
graphic trends indicate the increase of 
minority populations thalhave tradition- 
ally had high dropout rates (Hodgkin- 
son, 1985). 

The factors associated with dropping 
out include conditions inside and out- 
side of sciiool. Some of the circum- 
stances outside of school include limited 
English proficiency, substance abuse, 
early parenting, learning disability, pov- 

erty, broken families, low academic 
expectations of the family and commu- 
nity, and general feelings of c,;clusion 
from the school life of high school. 
Educators have responded to conditions 
inside and outside of shool by creating 
strategies that improve the chances that 
students stay in school. 

A content analysis of the dropout pre- 
vention literature and descriptions of 
dropout prevention programs from na- 
tional, state, and local agencies reveals 
that educators use any combination of 
eight strategics when forging a dropout 
prevention effort (Fennimore, 1988; 
Hamby, 1989). From a building-level 
perspective, they include: 

• Using non-punitive approaches to at- 
tendance monitoring, outreach, and 

• Providing alternative school sched- 
ules (e.g., evening high schools, sum- 
mer programs); 

• Modifying or rescinding policies that 
"push out" students (e.g., gradereten- 
tion. out-of-school suspension, inade- 
quate social support services); 

• Improving the school climate by in- 
corporating elements of school effec- 
tiveness and by building partnerships 
with the community; 

• Designing curriculum to link the aca- 
demic, psychosocial, and vocational 
domains of adolescent experience; 

• Expandingthe teacher's role from dis- 
penser of knowledge to mentor, col- 
laborator, and coach; 

• Using instructional strategies that 
actively engage students in learning, 
such as cooDcrativc or experiential 
learning or applied problem solving; 

• Assessing the integrity of the school 


environment by measuring how fre- 
quent and how participatory interac- 
tions are that arc occuring within the 
school and beyond. 

While most traditional dropout preven- 
tion efforts are designed as pull-out 
programs with a narrow focus on basic 
skills remediation and individualiza- 
tion, some researchers have called for 
greater emphasis on higher-order think- 
ing and group process skills and more 
movement toward restructuring schools 
as a whol^., instead of adding programs 
oraltemativeschools(Prcsseisen, 19K8; 
Oakes, 1987). 

State-level or district-level policies can 
encourage or discourage iliese cluingcs 
by expanding alternative sch(K)ls. sup- 
porting exixirimenlation with restruc- 
tured school mode Is, cal I ing for a greater 
curricular focus on higher -order think- 
ing, and taking a position on tracking. 
How these issues are addressed frames 
much of the current debate on dro|X)Ut 

Leading policymakers recommend that 
states define "dropout/'and build an in- 
dicator system that provides common 
data on all students and holds schools 
accountable for their dropout rates. To 
encourage theexperimentation required 
for developing effective restructured or 
allernaUve models, state and local (X)U 
icy should allow for more building- 
level autonomy and support curricular 
and iastructional innovation. Finally, 
states and districts should encourage 
districts to develop strong partnerships 
with the cominunity in forming a drop- 
out prevention effort (Weiilagc. 1988). 
These |X)licies will support schools as 
iJiey implement dropout prevention 
strategies. k1 



Regional Action & Agendas 


Illinois* commilincnl lo reducing Ihc number 
or school dropouts is refleclcd in ils goal **lo 
adopt, slrenglhcn, and/or expand }X)licies, pro 
ccdurcs, and programs which address llie 
problems of al -risk children and youlh/' and in 
ils funding of s|Kcial and educational reforni 
programs. These programs include Hispanic 
Student Dropout Prevention (FY'89 funding 
level: S36(U00); Truants* Alternative and 
Option Eiducational Program (FY'89 funding 
level: SI 3,()73,(KX)); Preschool Education 
(FY*«9 funding level: S23,9(K),00()). 


No additional legislution is expected. 


Oe|xjnding on available funding, Illinois plr.ns 
tn expand existing programs and practice to 
include all children at risk of .sch(H)l failure. 


Beginning with the 1988-89 school year, the 
legislauire appropriated S20 million per year 
for school-based programs to assist with the 
educational development of at-risk suidents. 
How each school district spends its appropria- 
tion is discretionary, providing the program 
fits into one of the nine categories set by law: 
preschool, full -day kindergarten, parental and 
commimity involvement, transitional pro- 
grams, tutoring, remediation, expa:icted school 
coimseling, individualized prognms, and 
model alternative c^lucation. Of lnciiana\s 766 
programs, 280 are for counseling, and a large 
percentage of the others contain s(mic aspect 
of counseling in conjunction with other 
progfamssuch as parental and community 

Ivemeni. By the end of the .school year. 
211,118 students will have been directly 
served by the program, atid 38 jvrcenl o( ihe 
funding will have been provided by voluntary 
local contributions. Educational professionals, 
state legislat.)r.s, and the Governor will supjxirt 
the program. 


The original projxisal was for $20 million. By 
the 1000.91 .sclnKil year, funding is expected 
to increase by SH)-20 million. The Department 
of Education (1X)E) has requested a slight 
increase in the first year of the next fi.scal 
bienniuni to evaluate the first year\s programs, 
In the .second year, the DOE has requested a 
SIO million increase. 


Bills to a commission on drug free 
.schools, i^sel a "Just day No Day/* and to 
create a celebrities task force for drug-free 
schools are moving rapidly through tlie 


Dropouts are of high interest due to increased 
dro{X)ut ratcii and new state standards for 
Local Education Agencies (LEAs), K-14, to 
develop plans lo serve at-risk students. The 
Alternative Education Association assists 
LSAs in developing and implementing 


Under 1984 legi.slation, di.stricts may file 
plans for additional allowable growth to 
provide for returning dropouts and dropout 
prevention. Effective July 1, 1989, under 
lowa*s new Educational Standards, programs 
are to be established to identify and serve at- 
risk students. 


Future objectives Jire to develop and di.ssemi- 
nate a planning fonnat for use in reviewing 
policies and practices that conU-ibute to 
student failure and dropout, and to develop 
program sU-ategies to serve larger geographic 
areas and include services for small rural 
disU-icts, including Area Community Colleges 
and support .service agencies. 


Dropout prevention remains a top priority in 
Michigan. Initiatives from the Governor's 
Ofncc, the State Board of Education^ and 
other departments include an emphasis on 
early childhood education, .school improve- 
ment and job placement. 


Funding is currently available for increased 
Department staffing and pilot projects. 
Propo.scd programs would provide local 
school financial incentives for improving 
student achievement and attendance including ^ 
.schools of choice as an alternative. 


Future plans include funding to integrate llie 
Governor's Human Investment initiatives and 
enhance the coordination and assessment of 
employabilily skills education and job training 



Because Minnesota has a flexible stale 
funding system that supjx)rts a variety of 
mainsU-cam, posLsecondary (while in high 
school) Jind alternative programs, categorical 
and special funding has not been needed for 
new programs. Cuirenl dropout prevention 
programs are st'ongly supported by llie 
Governor, Senate, House, Department of 
Education, and private sector groups. 

Current Legislation 

• High School Graduation Incentives (HSGl) 
(1987. amended 1988) 

• Adult Diploma Program (1988) 

• Area Learning Centers (1987, amended 

• Minor Parenl/Prcgnjint Legislation (1988) 

• Mandatory School Attendance for Minor 
Parents (1987, amended 1988) 

• Sliding Scale Child Care Funds (1987) 

• Postsecondary EmoUment O^itions (198.5) 

• MeU-oOpcn Enrollment (1988) 

• Other FVevenlion Laws and Policies 
including: Early Childhood Screening, 
AIDS Prevention, and Risk Reduction 

Proposed Legislation 

• Amendment to HSGI-funding to private 

• Interagency Adult Basic Education Iniiiativo 

• Amendment to Human Service Welfare 
Reforr.i for 18- & 19- Year-Olds, Aid to 
Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) 
custodial parents 

• TransiKirtalion for children of cusKxIial 

• Learner outcomes and individuali/.ed 
learning for alternative programs 

• Early childhood .screening for 3 -year -olds 


The Legislature and the Governor a^^c 
directing additional attention to these issues 
and will be refining drojxnil program 


Dro|x)ut prevention is a major priority of the 
Ohio Department of Education. Ohio's 
Formula for Educational Success, published 
by the DeparUnent in 1988, defined 14 factors 
as.soeiated with the at-risk .student. Pilot 
projects were selected for 1988-89; 80 stale 
and federally-funded programs were identified 
to address some of these factors. The goals are 
to reach at-risk suidents, keep them in .school, 
and ensure they graduate with skills. 

Guest Commentary 

by Gary G. Wehlage, Associate Director 

National Center on Effective Secondary Schools, University of Wisconsin-Madison 


The Stale Board of Education's legislative 
rcconiniemlatinns included proposals sueh as 
riill-(h«y kindergarten, adolescent pregnancy 
prngranis, urban demonstration projects, addi- 
tional Reading Recovery Programs, and 
siminiLT education/job programs so that by the 
year 2(KM) all students who enter high scliool 
will graduate. U^gislative consideration alsci is 
hoitig given to driver's license revocation for 


The Department has established a Dro}X)Ul 
I^rcvcntion Section wiilun llie Educational 
Scrviees Division to serve as a clearinghouse 
of information and as a coordinator of 
Department dropout prevention cfforLs. Re- 
gional and dis!nci meetings are planned to 
gather information and input concerning the 
(!ro}wnit problem. 


An aggressive statewide public jwlicy and 
programmatic thrust is underway focusing on 
educational standards, school age parents, 
education for employment, the Job Training 
Partnership Act, {)rescliool chihiren iind 
education, welfare reform, youth suicide and 
alcohol and other drug abuse preventi(m. and 
pupil services. Constraints include tlie lack of 
sufficient resources to iniplenicnt and 
integrate pr(;grams; limited funding for inter- 
agency coojxiration: and inflexibility of 


Legislation is extensive in the areas of: 

• Children at risk 

• School District Educational Stimdards 

• Compulsory attendance to 18 years 

• Tmancy Prevention 

• Learn fa re 

• Al(()h(^l and other drug abuse prevention 

• School age parents 

• F?<hication for employment 


Statutory latigunge affecting children at risk, 
prcschooM2th ^rade, will be refinc<I and 
nroloijixjs for effective resource networking 
and program models will be provided. 

A s educators began to address the prob- 
lem of unacccpiably high dropout rates during 
the 1980s, it became clear they were dealing 
witli a complex problem. Practical experience 
with this problem indicated that there was no 
single cause or solution. Increasingly state pol- 
icy initiatives rea)gnizcd the complexity of the 
problem by offering legislative programs rang- 
ing from pre-school and child care aid to adoles- 
cent drug abuse prevention to pilot alternative 
.schools. It appears from the current lis^of initia- 
tives funded by the slates that most of them have 
approached the problem with a scries of discrete 
programs. These tend to target particular prob- 
lems associated with dropping out. While each 
of these discrete programs is probably worthy of 
support, states and districts should consider how 
they might best develop comprehensive strate- 
gies lliat more systematically address the factors 
leading to dropping out. Let ne suggest a com- 
prehensive approach to dropout prevention that 
can serve as the foundation forpolicy initiatives. 

First, dropout prevention might be con- 
ceived as requiring a longitudinal plan, ftevcn- 
tion requires a continuous effort from prenatal 
care and early childhood education through the 
grades to graduation. An assumption is that one 
should not expect to "solve** the problem with 
early intervention strategics alone .since many 
young people become at risk of dropping out 
from causes that occur later rather than earlier. 
Also, a comprehensive plan should include 
dropout reu-ieval during the high school years 
and conclude with non-traditional opportunities 
for acquiring a diploma, GED, and adult basic 

Second, a comprehensive approach 
to dropout prevention sliould be developed from 
good data about students and the schools they 
auend. States should consider requiring school 
districts to use a commonly defined set of indi- 
cators for detennining the origin and severity of 
problems associated with dropping out. In con- 
junction with .state mandated definitions and 
procedures, districts would be required to re})ort 
information on the following indicators: drop- 
out rate, course failures, retention in grade, 
suspensions, at tendance, academic achievement, 
teen pregnancy, youtli employment, .inactivity, 
and post.secondary enrollment. 

These indicators would serve two pur|X>ses, 
First, they would allow states, communities, and 
school di.stricts to measure change over lime on 
key, commonly defined variables as programs 
are implemented to improve schools for at-risk 
youth. These indicators w(uild inform pxili- 
cy makers, educators, and the public as lo whether 
conditions are improving as a result of policy 
initiatives. Second, data from these indicators 
would allow schools to assess the extent and 
severity of certain problems in their schools. 
Data would provide a basis for making judg- 
ments about what interventions and which pol- 
icy changes are needed. Forsome.schools, infor- 
mation on tjie various indicators might suggest 
that relatively minor problems exist, and that 
with a few improvements sch<uils can provide a 
safety net of supjxnt for th<isc who are ai risk of 
dropping out. Tliis safety net might include a 
variety of supplementary programs that provide 
remediation, counseling, and incentives toreach 
graduation. Where a high dropout rate exists, the 
indicators might suggest a need to review and 
modify school }x)licies g<werning matters such 
as course failures, retention in grade, and .sus- 
pension. Also, the data might lead educators to 
conclude that there is a need f<u alternatives 
whichoffer a substJintially different .school struc- 
ture, climate, and curriculum if at-risk siudenis 
are to succeed in school. 

Finslly, the indicators can serve tti gaN 
vanize whole communities that are concerned 
about the<|uality of community life and the op* 
portun i t ies th at ex i.s t for young people . 1 1 may be 
that in some communities young p^ple experi- 
ence serious social problems and perceive little 
opportunity for a better life. In such situa'lons, 
schools need to unite with o^hcr '^•'>nmimiiy 
institutions to provide services and create a 
climate of hope alxnit the future that makes 
engagement in school seem worthwhile. State 
policy cou\(\ encourage the formatiim of com- 
munity collaboratives that bring together the 
schools, .social service agencies, the business 
community, private organizations such as 
churches and .service clubs, the legal system, the 
city council, and institutions of higher educa- 
tion. Collaboratives provide the basis for com- 
munity planning and coordination of resources 
in attacking the broad array of conditions thai 
place young people at risk. ■ 


References & Resources 


CatteralL J,. & Cota-Robles. E, 
11988. November), The educa- 
tionally at-risk: What the 
numbers mean. Paper presented 
at an invitational conference at 
Stanford University, Accelerating 
the education of at risk students. 
Stanford. CA, 

Clune. W,H., P,. & Patterson. J. 
(1989. February). The implement 
tation and effects of high scho _Ql 
graduation requirements: First 
steps tov^/ard curricular reform . 
New Brunswick, NJ: Center for 
Policy Research in Education. 

Fennimore. T.F. (1988). A guide for 
dropout prevention: Creating an 
integrated learning environment 
in secondary schools . Columbus, 
OH. National Center for 
Research in Vocational Educa- 

Hamby. J.V, (1989, February). How 
to get an "A" in your dropout 
prevention report card. Educa- 
tiona l Leadership . 4S (5). 21 28. 

Hodgkinson. H.L, (1985). All one 
system: Demographics of 
education, kindergarten throug h 
graduate school . Washington, 
DC: Institute for Educational 
Leadership, Inc. 

Oakes. J. (1987, October), 
Improving inner-city schooL- 
Current directions in urban 
district reform (Report No. JNE- 
02). Santa Monica. CA: Center 
for Po'^Cy Research in Education. 

Presseisen. B.Z. (Ed.). (1988). 
risk students and thinking: Per- 
sp ectives from research . Wash- 
ington. DC: Joint publication of 
the Nationat^ducalion Associa* 
tion and Research for Better 
Schools. Inc. 

U.S. Department of Labor. (1988). 

workers for the 21st century. 
Washington. DC: Author. 

Wehlage. G. (1988), Schoo l 
reforms for at-risk students. 
Madison, Wl: National Center on 
Effective Secondary Schools. 
University of Wisconsin- 

Williams. P.A, (1987. October). 
Standardizing school dropout 
measures. Brunswick. NJ: Center 
for Policy Research in Education. 


Please contact the Illinois State 
Board of Education for available 


Please contact the Indiana 
Department of Education for 
available products. 


lo\^a Department of Education; 
"Iowa Guidance Surveys" 
"Alternative Schools and Programs 

• Reaching Out to Help People" 
"Student at Risk • A Planning 

Worksheet for Educators" 

Michigan Department of Educa- 

Report on Operation Graduation: A 
School Dropout Prevention 

The Black Child in Crisis. Identifica- 
tion of At-risk Students (1988) 

Michigan School Dropouts 

Hispanic Dropout Report (1985) 


Minnesota Poparlment of 

Copies of legislation 

Mailings on each program 

Flyers on High School Graduation 
Incentives, Area Learning 
Centers, Minor P&rent/Pregnant 
Minors, and Post^Secondary En- 
rollment Options 

Learners at Risk legislation in 

Listing of child care centers and 
referral in high schools m 


Ohio Department of Education: 
Reducing Dropouts in Ohio 

Schools: Guidelines and 

Promising Practices (1984) 
Ohio's Formula for Educational 

Success (1988) 
Fourth .Annual Report • Indicators 

for Progress (1988) 
Identifying Barriers to Serving Al- 

Risk Students (1988) 

Department of Public Instruction: 
Children At Risk. Guidance. 
JTPA. Alcohol and Other Drug 
Abuse Prevention. Pupil 
Services. Education for Employ- 
ment Resource & Planning 

Department of Industry. Labor. & 
Human Relations: JTPA and 
Employability Resource Guides 

Department of Health and Social 
Services: Learnfare and Workfare 
Resource Guides 

State Contacts 

Illinois State Board of Education 
100 North First Street 
Springfield. Illinois 62777 
Carolyn Farrar 


Indiana Department of Education 
Stale House. Rm. 229 
Indianapolis. Indiana 46204-2798 
Carol D'Amico 

Iowa Department of Education 
Grimes State Office Building 
Des Moines. Iowa 50319 
Raymond Morley 
515-281-8582 or 
Edward Ranney 

Michigan Department of Education 

P.O. Box 30008 

Lansing. Michigan 48909 

Linda Forward 



Minnesota Depo, ijnent of 

682 Capitol Square Building 
550 Cedar Street 
St. Paul. Minnesota 55101 
Joleen Durken 

Hot Line number for dropout 
information: 612-296-1261 

Ohio Department of Education 
65 South Front Street 
Columbus. Ohio 43266-0308 
Margaret Trent 

Wisconsin Department of Public 

125 S Webster 
P.O. Box 7841 
Madison. Wisconsin 53707 
Dennis Van Den Heuve! 

OpiniofVi expressed in the cotmneniaries do not necexxarily reflect the vie>^fs of the NCREL staff or Board. 

Facts and ideas presented in NCREL's Policy Briefs are intended to survey a current uisue and not to advocate a particular position. 

Mils Hrivfs 

A (M'hluMlitui (>| ihc Norlh CVnlr:il 
Rouu' I aKor.ilt^fA 
I'i l-rnr-n 
|'Im,|mi(.|, [IhiHUs 

K \\ N^)V^.^^^n^ <ki. Interim Lxn utnc 

N.iiu> I-ulf'^rd. r.-hif^r 

.\Lri.iim'; Kf\V'^:cr. P*^fHiut:ttf>n Ldilr^r 

niiis puhlicalion is based oi\ work 
SfKxisorcd wholly or in pan by ihc 
Office of liducalional Research and 
Improvcmcni (OliRI), Dcpartmcni of 
lulucaliixi, under Contract Number 
40().86-0(K)4. Ihc conlenl of this 
piibliciilioti dtxjs not necessarily 
'■cflcci Ihc views of OBKl, ihc 
Depannicnt o{ l-,ducaliw» or any olhcr 
jijiency in ihr U.S. Government . 


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