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ERIC Number: ED545308
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2014
Pages: 72
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
Don't Call Them Dropouts: Understanding the Experiences of Young People Who Leave High School before Graduation
Hynes, Michelle
Center for Promise
"Don't Call Them Dropouts" adds to the large and growing body of research about why some young people fail to complete high school on the traditional four-year timeline. While a high school diploma is only a starting line for adult success, it has become increasingly clear that it is crucial for taking the next steps in college and career. Over the past decade, there has been impressive growth in and commitment to helping more students graduate. What has been missing from much of the recent research, however, is a vibrant portrait of young people's experiences, gathered in a way that deepens the national conversation about why some young people are still failing to graduate. The Center's research team gathered the stories of more than 200 young people through 30 facilitated group interviews in 16 high-poverty, geographically distributed urban communities across the country. In addition, nearly 3,000 more young people drawn from all 50 states responded to a survey; about two-thirds of those respondents had stopped attending school for at least a semester, while the remainder had finished high school uninterrupted. A group of partner organizations, described in Appendix II, assisted with recruiting participants for both qualitative and quantitative data collection. The research was designed to answer questions like: (1) What do young people say about why they leave high school before graduating; (2) What circumstances surrounded the decision to leave; (3) What were students' lives like when they left school, and what effects has that decision had on them and on their families; (4) Why do young people say they came back to school; (5) What opportunities do young people have to re-engage after leaving school, and what barriers do they encounter along the way? Analyzing the qualitative and quantitative data led to four primary findings: (1) Both disengaging from and re-engaging with school result from clusters of factors; (2) Young people who stop going to school are likely to be navigating home, school, or neighborhood environments that they experience as toxic; (3) Connectedness to others is a high priority for young people; The value placed on these relationships can lead young people away from or toward school, depending on other circumstances; and (4) Young people who interrupted their high school education often "bounced back" from difficult circumstances, but individual resilience was insufficient to re-engage with school. Longer-term positive development, called, "reaching up," required additional support. The stories and the statistics provide important clues to how more can be learned how to provide more support of the diverse groups of young people who are leaving our nation's high schools. This research confirms that how each of us sees these young people, how we talk to them, and what we expect from them matters very much. Appended are: (1) Methodology; (2) Partner Program Descriptions; (3) Community Partner Descriptions; and (4) Tables.
Center for Promise. Available from: America's Promise Alliance. 1110 Vermont Avenue NW Suite 900, Washington, DC 20005. Tel: 202-657-0600; Fax: 202-657-0601; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Research
Education Level: Secondary Education; High Schools
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: Target Stores/Dayton Hudson Corp.
Authoring Institution: America's Promise Alliance