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#19: The English Learner Dropout Dilemma: Multiple Risks and Multiple Resources


Download: Full Report (60 pgs.)       |       Policy Brief (4 pgs.)

Reference: Callahan, Rebecca M. (2013). The English Learner Dropout Dilemma: Multiple Risks and Multiple Resources.

Abstract:   In the 2008-09 school year, nearly 11 percent of U.S. students in grades K-12 were classified as English learners (EL), and many more were former EL students, no longer identified by their 'limited' English proficiency. This report examines the extent, consequences, causes, and solutions to the dropout crisis among EL students and the extent to which these issues are similar or different among dropouts relative to the general population. Research repeatedly shows that EL students are about twice as likely to drop out as native and fluent English speakers. The social, economic and health consequences of dropping out that threaten the general population likely influence EL students as well. While many of the same factors that produce dropouts in the general population apply to EL students, others are unique: tracking as a result of EL status, access to certified teachers, and a high stakes accountability system. In terms of solutions to the EL dropout dilemma, three main reforms rise to the top of importance: Academic exposure, use of the primary language, and a shift from a deficit to an additive perspective.

Related:  Stemming the Tide of English-Learner Dropouts (Ed Week 3/12/13)

Downloads to date: Full report = 919       Policy Brief = 489



#18: The High School Dropout Dilemma and Special Education Students


Download: Full Report (60 pgs.)       |       Policy Brief (4 pgs.)

Reference: Thurlow, M. and Johnson, D. (2011). The High School Dropout Dilemma and Special Education Students.

Abstract:   The severity of the dropout crisis in California and the nation varies widely among student groups. Special education students, who represent 11 percent of all school-age students nationally and 9 percent in California, are one of the most impacted groups. This report examines four topics related to the dropout dilemma for special education students: (a) the definition and incidence of dropouts, (b) the economic and social consequences of dropping out, (c) the causes of dropping out, and (d) possible solutions to the dropout dilemma. To the extent possible, the report highlights both the national dropout picture and the situation within California. The authors conclude that current trends toward modest improvements in graduation rates among special education students are insufficient. Increased attention and societal investments in interventions, strategies, and programs that emphasize student engagement and retention, especially for special education students, are critically needed.

Downloads to date: Full report = 1227       Policy Brief = 559



#17: The Connection Between Health and High School Dropout


Download: Full Report (43 pgs.)       |       Policy Brief (4 pgs.)

Reference: Breslau, J. (2010). The Connection Between Health and High School Dropout.

Abstract: There is ample evidence that poor health in childhood and adolescence is associated with higher risk of dropping out of high school. This association is suggestive of a causal effect of health problems on dropout and a potential role for health interventions to reduce the proportion of high school students who drop out. Interventions with such a dual benefit—improving health while decreasing dropout—would be important policy priorities. With the goal of identifying strategic priorities in the development of health interventions to reduce dropout, this review examines research on the effect of specific health conditions on dropout and evidence that existing intervention programs that target these health conditions are effective in reducing dropout rates. The review examines physical and mental disorders as well as two other conditions, pregnancy and obesity, that, while not disorders, may benefit from medical intervention. For each condition we examine the hypothesized pathways through which education may be affected and provide a balanced evaluation of existing evidence from observational and intervention studies of the potential positive effect of interventions on dropout.

Press Release:   Study Reveals Link Between Health and High School Dropouts

Downloads to date: Full report = 1816       Policy Brief = 1204



#16: High School Dropouts and the Economic Losses from Juvenile Crime in California


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Reference: Belfield, C. and Levin, H. (2009). High School Dropouts and the Economic Losses from Juvenile Crime in California.

Abstract: California's juvenile crime rate is high. Juveniles commit one-in-six violent crimes and over one-quarter of all property crimes; they also commit crimes in school, victimizing one-quarter of all students and one-in-twelve teachers. The economic loss from juvenile crime is substantial. In total, each juvenile cohort in California imposes an economic loss of $8.9 billion on the state's citizens. Part of the explanation for juvenile crime is poor education. In this paper, we estimate the economic loss from juvenile crime associated with not completing high school before age 18. Using results from three separate studies and applying their results for California, we estimate the annual juvenile crime loss associated with high school dropouts at $1.1 billion. Finally, we compare the losses from juvenile crime with the costs of improving the education system. We calculate that savings in juvenile crime alone will offset approximately 16% of the costs of providing these interventions.

Press Release:   New Study Shows Dropouts Cost the State $1 Billion Each Year in Juvenile Crime
Related:  Dropouts costing California $1.1 billion annually in juvenile crime costs (LA Times 9/24/09)

Downloads to date: Full report = 1789       Policy Brief = 1140



#15: Why Students Drop Out of School: A Review of 25 Years of Research


Download: Full Report ( pgs.)       |       Policy Brief (4 pgs.)

Reference: Rumberger, R., and Lim, S. (2008). Why Students Drop Out of School: A Review of 25 Years of Research.

Abstract: To address the dropout crisis requires a better understanding of why students drop out. Although dropouts themselves report a variety of reasons for leaving school, these reasons do not reveal the underlying causes, especially multiple factors in elementary or middle school that may influence students' attitudes, behaviors, and performance in high school prior to dropping out. To better understand the underlying causes behind students' decisions for dropping out, this study reviewed the past 25 years of research on dropouts. The review is based on 203 published studies that analyzed a variety of national, state, and local data to identify statistically significant predictors of high school dropout and graduation. Although in any particular study it is difficult to demonstrate a causal relationship between any single factor and the decision to quit school, a large number of studies with similar findings does suggest a strong connection. The research review identified two types of factors that predict whether students drop out or graduate from high school: factors associated with individual characteristics of students, and factors associated with the institutional characteristics of their families, schools, and communities.

Downloads to date: Full report = 6295       Policy Brief = 4026



#14: What Factors Predict High School Graduation in the Los Angeles Unified School District?


Download: Full Report ( pgs.)       |       Policy Brief (4 pgs.)

Reference: Silver, D., et al. (2008). What Factors Predict High School Graduation in the Los Angeles Unified School District?

Abstract: Because the paths to high school graduation or to dropping out begin years before these events, identifying relevant school-related factors requires a comprehensive analysis of data at the district, school, and student levels. In collaboration with the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), the authors of this study analyzed district data to track the educational progress of all first-time 2001-02 9th graders, from the 6th grade through to their expected graduation in the spring of 2005. This group consisted of 48,561 students who attended 163 LAUSD middle and high schools. The analysis of transcript records, standardized test scores, and a broad database of student and school characteristics sheds light on the middle and high school factors related to high school persistence and graduation.

The study exposes troubling rates of academic failure, but it also offers reasons for hope, demonstrating that academic experiences and school factors play a much larger role than student demographics in determining graduation rates, and that there is tremendous variation in the extent to which schools can have success with populations of students whose odds of graduation are typically quite poor.

Related: Graduation rates declining in L.A. Unified despite higher enrollment, study finds (LA Times 6/21/08)

Downloads to date: Full report = 2188       Policy Brief = 1827



#13: Middle School Predictors of High School Achievement in Three California School Districts


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Reference: Kurlaender, M., et al. (2008). Middle School Predictors of High School Achievement in Three California School Districts.

Abstract: This paper explores early predictors of high school graduation and success. Employing 7th grade cohorts from three large California school districts (San Francisco, Fresno, and Long Beach), we investigate the role of several key middle school academic performance measures in identifying diploma receipt, passing the California High School Exit Examination on the first attempt, and students' 11th grade academic performance. We find that standardized assessments, timing of algebra, and course failures in middle school provide useful indication of students' high school academic success. Our aim is not to identify any causal mechanism by which middle school achievement leads to high school success or failure, but rather to describe important associations that may aid policymakers and school leaders to develop strategies early in students' educational pursuit of the high school diploma.


Downloads to date: Full report = 1063       Policy Brief = 1152



#12: Can Middle School Reform Increase High School Graduation Rates?


Download: Full Report (pgs.)       |       Policy Brief (4 pgs.)

Reference: Eccles, J. (2008). Can Middle School Reform Increase High School Graduation Rates?

Abstract: This report reviews the research literature on three major topics concerning students as they move into middle and junior high schools. The first section describes how many students disengage from the academic agenda of American schools because they either do not feel that they can succeed in these institutions or because they come to place little value or even negative value on being at school. It also explains the many ways in which experiences in and out of schools contribute to this problem.

The second section finds that the developmental declines in school engagement often observed during early adolescence are primarily a consequence of the nature of the middle years school transitions. Further, the pathway to high school dropout is often crystallized for youth at risk for school disengagement as a result of these experiences.

The last section suggests how to design middle school contexts that protect against this type of negative crystallization.


Downloads to date: Full report = 890       Policy Brief = 939



#11: Struggling to Succeed: What Happened to Seniors Who Did Not Pass the California High School Exit Exam?


Download: Full Report (pgs.)       |       Policy Brief (4 pgs.)

Reference: Jimerson, S., et al. (2008). Struggling to Succeed: What Happened to Seniors Who Did Not Pass the California High School Exit Exam?

Abstract: Since 2006, students in California have been required to pass the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) to receive their high school diploma. Most students have either passed the CAHSEE by their senior year or dropped out. However, more than 70,000 high school seniors in the 2007 graduating class had not passed the CAHSEE, yet chose to remain enrolled in school rather than abandon their education. A better understanding of these students and their experiences could help improve the state's graduation rate.

This report summarizes findings from a study of 167 twelfth graders from the class of 2007 in four California public school districts. Participants were randomly selected from a group of students who did not pass the CAHSEE as of the fall semester of their senior year. These students were unique because they were at "high academic risk" given their poor performance on the CAHSEE, but they were also "persistent" as they were still enrolled in school despite their academic struggles. Participants were surveyed in the spring of their senior year and again the following fall to determine what happened to these students.

The findings reveal characteristics and outcomes of a unique population of students who, despite knowing they had taken and not passed the CAHSEE multiple times, still enrolled in school for their senior year. Overall, these students did not resemble high school dropouts in traditional characteristics. The majority of these students attended class regularly, generally avoided trouble, felt connected to their schools, and held high educational values and hopes for their future. Most of these students were English Learners who struggled with their English language skills. This particular group of students appears willing to work hard to earn an education and appear to be looking for opportunities to achieve this objective.


Downloads to date: Full report = 724       Policy Brief = 660



#10: Improving California's Student Data Systems to Address the Dropout Crisis


Download: Full Report ( pgs.)       |       Policy Brief (4 pgs.)

Reference: Vernez, G. (2008). Improving California's Student Data Systems to Address the Dropout Crisis.

Abstract: The extent of California's dropout problem is unknown, placed at between 33 and 16 percent. California needs to build a robust student data system—-called a student unit record (SUR) system, because it contains information on every student from entry in kindergarten to exit from college and eventually into the labor force-—in order to accurately measure the dropout rate across schools and colleges, hold educational institutions accountable, evaluate the effectiveness of programs, help identify students at-risk, and assess return on educational investments. The state can do so by building on its existing student data systems enhanced by adding and standardizing data elements (e.g. program participation and attendance), integrating the existing SUR from the four California education segments, linking the integrated SUR data file with other state and federal data files, and broadening access to the resulting data set.


Downloads to date: Full report = 665       Policy Brief = 507



#9: Building System Capacity for Improving High School Graduation Rates


Download: Download the Full Report ( pgs.)       |       Policy Brief (4 pgs.)

Reference: Supovitz, J. (2008). Building System Capacity for Improving High School Graduation Rates in California.

Abstract: Addressing difficult education issues like school dropouts requires concerted support for schools and the building of educational capacity. Educational capacity, defined here as the ability to deliver, or support the delivery of, assistance to students to improve learning outcomes, is an essential but under-developed ingredient to support schools to meet accountability goals and achieve standards. Districts, the State, universities, and private and non-profit providers all play important roles in contributing capacity to the educational system, yet their efforts largely lack coordination.

This report analyzes the different, nested, and interdependent roles of these education support providers. The report particularly examines the role of school districts. The author argues that, while well functioning school districts are uniquely positioned and integral to building school capacity, they also generally need substantial capacity-building themselves to identify and coordinate the array of resources that must be brought to bear in order to address pressing educational challenges. The report concludes by suggesting that the most potentially powerful and systemic approach to coordinating the different organizations supporting educational improvement would establish a state-wide consortium of support providers.


Downloads to date: Full report = 589       Policy Brief = 659



#8: Giving a Student Voice to California's Dropout Crisis


Download:   Full Report ( pgs.)       |       Policy Brief (4 pgs.)

Reference: Bridges, M. et al. (2008). Giving a Student Voice to California's Dropout Crisis.

Abstract: Recent research suggests that almost one-third of California students will never graduate from high school—and about half of the state's minority students will fail to do so. These dropout rates hold stark implications for the economic and social welfare of the students who fail to graduate and of the state.

This study investigated why students drop out by asking 133 predominantly Latino California ninth graders in five high schools across the state about the factors they see as motivating them toward or alienating them from finishing high school. The study compared students at-risk of dropping out—those who had failed at least one class or had been absent at least 12 days during the semester (40% of the sample)—with their more resilient peers.


Press Release: Study Shows that Teacher-Student Relationships Motivate Students to Complete High School: California Students Identify Factors that Motivate them Toward or Discourage them from Graduating

Related: Companion video clips: "Fresh Voices: California Ninth Graders Speak Out About Dropping Out"

LA Times Blog: "A village? Maybe it just takes one adult who cares"


Downloads to date: Full report = 1159       Policy Brief = 1233



#7: Alternative Pathways to High School Graduation: An International Comparison


Download: Full Report (pgs.)       |       Policy Brief (4 pgs.)

Reference: Lamb, S. (2008). Alternative Pathways to High School Graduation: An International Comparison.

Abstract:Over recent decades, many western nations have stepped up their efforts to increase high school graduation rates while maintaining high standards. How systems have approached this, and how successful they are, varies. One of the key differences is in the range of high school programs and the pathways to graduation. This paper documents and examines some of the alternative pathways offered in different countries. What are the main alternative pathways? How do they work? For whom do they work? Are they of equal value? The benefits and costs of alternatives provided in different national systems are highlighted using case studies, including a comparison of the pathways in terms of content, graduation requirements, inclusiveness and outcomes.


Downloads to date: Full report = 784       Policy Brief = 748



#6: California High Schools that Beat the Odds in High School Graduation


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Reference: Socias, M., et al. (2007). California High Schools That Beat the Odds in High School Graduation.

Abstract: Although the importance of graduating from high school is well documented, there is relatively little research literature on the strategies high schools can use to improve their graduation rates. To address this issue, this study identified 22 California schools that are "beating the odds" (BTO) in terms of graduation rates, dropout rates, and test scores, compared to schools with similar demographics and challenges. After identifying such BTO high schools, interviews were conducted with principals of six of these schools to determine the policies, procedures, and practices their leaders believe have contributed to their demonstrated ability to "beat the odds." Although all six principals emphasized that there is no one formula for success, four overarching themes emerged from the interviews: (1) connecting with and engaging students; (2) Engaging parents and community members to support school efforts; (3) providing interventions and supports to students at risk of dropping out; and (4) creating a culture of accountability and high expectations.


Downloads to date: Full report = 901       Policy Brief = 922



#5: Student and School Predictors of High School Graduation in California


Download: Full Report (pgs.)       |       Policy Brief (4 pgs.)

Reference: Rumberger, R. and Arellano, B. (2007). Student and School Predictors of High School Graduation in California.

Abstract: Solving the dropout crisis in California requires a better understanding of the nature and causes of the problem. This report analyzes student and school predictors of high school graduation based on a sample of 1,343 California tenth grade students who attended 63 public high schools in 2002. The analysis is based on survey data collected in 2002 from students, teachers, principals, and parents, and transcripts collected one year after students' expected graduation in 2004. This study identified a number of alterable student and school predictors of high school graduation, including student engagement and achievement as well as school academic climate. In all, the findings from this study support the argument that solving California's high school dropout crisis will take a multifaceted approach—-it will require better preparing students before they enter high school, addressing their social as well as their academic needs while in high school, and it will require improving high schools themselves.


Downloads to date: Full report = 1012       Policy Brief = 950



#4: Can Combining Academic and Career-Technical Education Improve High School Outcomes in California?


Download: Full Report (pgs.)       |       Policy Brief (4 pgs.)

Reference: Clark, P., et al. (2007). Can Combining Academic and Career-Technical Education Improve High School Outcomes in California?

Abstract: One strategy for improving high school outcomes involves combining college-preparatory coursework with career-technical education (CTE) in the high school curriculum. The aim is to make high school more meaningful and motivating for more students, to increase graduation rates, and to prepare graduates for a range of postsecondary options. Preparation for college and career can be combined in various ways. Some high school students manage to complete the academic coursework required for college along with a career-technical sequence. Another approach is to enhance the academic content of CTE classes. A third approach is through "career academies" within comprehensive high schools that organize a multi-year curriculum around a career-related theme, with students at each grade level taking a set of core academic classes together, along with a technical class related to the career theme.

This paper reviews the evidence on effects of these approaches for students. Despite the challenges of implementation and the incompleteness of the evidence that these strategies produce the desired effects, the necessity of reconciling universal college aspirations with the realities of labor markets implies that programs combining academic and career-technical curriculum will—and should—continue to develop.


Downloads to date: Full report = 665       Policy Brief = 658



#3: Does State Policy Help or Hurt the Dropout Problem in California?


Download: Full Report (pgs.)       |       Policy Brief (4 pgs.)

Reference: Timar, T., et al. (2007). Does State Policy Help or Hurt the Dropout Problem in California?

Abstract: This paper examines California's education policy and its impact on school dropouts. The paper first examines the difficulty of assessing the scope of the dropout problem. Second, it provides a context to the dropping out problem by summarizing the principal research findings on its causes. The paper then examines California state policies: those aimed at keeping students in school as well as those policies that may inadvertently push students out of school. Does the state suffer from policy schizophrenia by promulgating policies to keep students in school while it promulgates other policies that unintentionally drive students out of schools? What are the incentives or disincentives policies create for schools to either retain or push students out?

Then, the paper discusses the current system of state oversight and governance and its implications for dropouts and school completion. Finally, the paper argues that policy makers should redefine the problem from dropouts to schools that serve students who are at risk for dropping out. The focus of policy should shift from getting students through school to a diploma, to creating schools that do a much better job teaching students who do not do well in our present system.


Downloads to date: Full report = 834       Policy Brief = 756



#2: The Return on Investment for Improving California's High School Graduation Rate


Download: Full Report (pgs.)       |       Policy Brief (4 pgs.)

Reference: Belfield, C. and Levin, H. (2007). The Return on Investment for Improving California's High School Graduation Rate.

Abstract: We review a large range of educational investments that might ensure more students graduate from high school in California. We identify educational interventions for which there is reasonably solid evidence of their efficacy to raise the rate of high school graduation, those for which there is promise, and those for which we have no relevant information. For each of these interventions we calculate the costs to the taxpayer of delivering the intervention. We calculate the delivery costs and the cost of producing one extra graduate. We then compare these costs to the economic benefits to the taxpayer and to the overall citizenry of California from each additional high school graduate. Under most scenarios, the economic benefits are substantially greater than the costs. However, this conclusion is sensitive to the funding source: federal governments gain significantly more from education than state and local governments, even as the latter are primarily responsible for funding.

Press Release: CDRP Studies Economic Impact of Dropouts


Downloads to date: Full report = 756 (since October 5, 2007)       Policy Brief = 769 (since October 5, 2007)



#1: The Economic Losses from High School Dropouts in California


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Reference: Belfield, C. and Levin, H. (2007). The Economic Losses from High School Dropouts in California.

Abstract: This paper calculates the fiscal and social burdens from high school dropouts in California. We map educational attainment in California for current cohorts of students and young adults. This reveals in stark terms the low levels of educational attainment across the state. Next, the amount of government spending in California is catalogued; this shows how much is spent on various services and by which levels of government. Our main focus is on the economic consequences of inadequate education on earnings, on tax revenues, and on spending on health, crime, and welfare (net of the resources required to provide additional education). For each of these four domains the effect of education has been assessed statistically. This effect is then multiplied by the respective economic burden from each cohort of 20-year olds who fail to graduate in order to get an overall total cost. Using a consistent accounting framework, these costs generate a figure of what is being lost by failing to ensure that all students graduate from high school. The economic magnitudes are substantial.

Press Release: CDRP Studies Economic Impact of Dropouts


Downloads to date: Full report = 1497 (since October 5, 2007)       Policy Brief = 1302 (since October 5, 2007)