Russell W. Rumberger
why students drop out of high school
and what can be done about it
From Dropping Out by Russell W. Rumberger, to be published in October 2011 by Harvard University Press.
Copyright © 2011 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
To order the book, visit: http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?recid=31285
For more information on the book, visit: http://education.ucsb.edu/rumberger/book/
From Dropping Out by Russell W. Rumberger, to be published in October 2011 by Harvard University Press.
Copyright © 2011 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
From Dropping Out by Russell W. Rumberger, to be published in October 2011 by Harvard University Press.
Copyright © 2011 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
A c k n o w l e d g m e n t s x i
1 Introduction 1
2 The Varying Requirements and Pathways for
Completing High School 20
The Con icting Goals of High School 21
The Requirements for Completing High School 28
Diploma Requirements 28
Alternative Credentials 35
Alternative Pathways to High School Completion 36
Alternative Schools 42
Other Options 45
3 The Nature and Extent of the Dropout Crisis 47
What Does It Mean to Drop Out of School? 47
The Dif culty of Identifying Dropouts 49
Student Mobility 52
Re enrollment 54
The Debate over Dropout and Graduation Rates 55
Mea sur ing Dropout and Graduation Rates 59
Alternative De nitions 59
The Need for Accurate Data 60
Competing Mea sures 66
The Promise and Reality of Longitudinal Data 73
The Vast Differences in Dropout and Graduation Rates 78
Demographic Differences 78
Differences among Schools, Districts, and States 78
Trends in Dropout and Graduation Rates 81
International Comparisons 84
4 The Individual Consequences of Dropping Out 86
Labor Market Outcomes 88
Family Formation 101
Civic Engagement 117
Well- Being 119
Intergenerational Mobility 120
5 The Social Consequences of Dropping Out 130
Consequences for the Economy 132
Consequences for the Larger Society 134
Civic Engagement 138
Total Economic Losses from Dropouts 139
6 Understanding Why Students Drop Out 143
The Pro cess of Dropping Out 145
Alternative Models of Dropping Out 145
The Role of Engagement 151
The Role of Context 153
A Conceptual Framework of the Dropout Pro cess 154
The Reasons Students Report for Dropping Out 156
7 Predictors of Dropping Out 159
Individual Predictors of Dropping Out 160
Educational Per for mance 160
Combining Factors 185
Institutional Predictors of Dropping Out 187
Explaining Racial and Ethnic Differences in
Dropout Rates 201
8 Learning from Past Efforts to Solve the Dropout Crisis 207
Alternative Approaches to Improving Dropout
and Graduation Rates 208
Targeted Approaches 208
Comprehensive Approaches 210
Systemic Approaches 214
What Works? 215
Judging Scienti c Evidence 217
Identifying Effective Strategies 221
Early Inverventions 228
Systemic Interventions 229
Costs and Bene ts 233
What Have We Learned from Large- Scale Reform Efforts? 234
High School Graduation Initiative 235
Comprehensive School Reform (CSR)
California’s High Priority Schools
Grant Program 237
New American Schools 238
Gates High School Grants Initiative 240
New Futures 242
New York City’s Small School Initiative 243
Lessons Learned 244
9 What Should Be Done to Solve the Dropout Crisis 255
Current Efforts 256
Are Current Efforts Enough? 266
Moving Beyond Current Efforts 269
Rede ning High School Success 269
Changing Accountability Systems to Provide Incentives
to Educate All Students 272
Building Capacity of the Educational System 273
Desegregating Schools 274
Strengthening Families and Communities 274
Cesar entered Hacienda Middle School in the Los Angeles School Dis-
trict in the sixth grade.1 He lived with his mother and three younger
siblings in a garage that was divided into sleeping quarters and a make-
shift kitchen with no running water. His mother, who spoke only Spanish,
supported the family by working long hours at a minimum- wage job.
During the rst semester of seventh grade, Cesar failed every class, in
part due to poor attendance and not completing assignments. But by the
end of seventh grade, with the assistance of a dropout prevention project
at the school, Cesar was able to pass two of his six classes.
With the support of the dropout prevention project, his grades contin-
ued to improve. Yet, as he entered eighth grade, Cesar was spending more
time after school away from home and on the streets. He began to wear
gang- related attire and hairstyles, although he denied gang involvement.
Teachers began to respond to him more positively as his grades improved,
but because he did not change his “appearance,” school administrators did
not seem to change their earlier negative perceptions about him.
Two weeks into his last semester of eighth grade, Cesar got into a ght
and kicked a younger student. Because of this incident, Cesar was given
what the school district called an “opportunity transfer.” However, no ap-
parent effort was made by the school to see that Cesar actually enrolled in
the new school, nor that he attended.
Cesar stopped attending school in eighth grade. He became a school
Public high schools in the United States reported that 607,789 students
dropped out in 2008– 09.2 An even higher number fails to graduate. Edu-
cation Week, the nation’s leading education periodical, estimates that 1.3
million students from the high school class of 2010 failed to graduate.3
This means that the nation’s schools are losing more than 7,000 students
each school day. And these gures do not count students like Cesar who
drop out before reaching ninth grade. Altogether, the U.S. Census estimates
that in October 2010 there were almost 28 million dropouts age eigh teen
and over in the United States.4
While these gures are sizeable, the magnitude of the problem is better
understood when expressed as a rate that re ects the proportion of stu-
dents who drop out of high school. The 607,789 students who dropped out
of high school in 2008– 09 represent more than 4 percent of all students
enrolled in grades 9– 12.5 The 1.3 million students from the high school
class of 2010 who failed to graduate represent 30 percent of the 4.3 million
students enrolled in the ninth grade in 2006.6
Yet dropout rates tell only part of the story. It is also important to consider
graduation rates, which re ect the proportion of students who actually grad-
uate from high school. The two rates are not directly related. Students who
drop out can still graduate at a later time, while students who never quit
school still may not graduate. To graduate, students must earn a high school
diploma, but some students earn alternative diplomas by taking state or na-
tional examinations. Students who earn these alternative diplomas are not
considered graduates, but they also are not considered dropouts.
Dropout and graduation rates vary widely among various populations
of students. For example, Education Week estimates that in the nation as a
whole, 69 percent of all students who entered high school in the fall of
2003 graduated in 2007. But only 56 percent of Hispanics and 54 percent
of blacks from that class graduated in 2007, compared to 81 percent of
Asians and 77 percent of whites.7 Among the almost 400,000 students with
disabilities who left school in 2006– 07, only 56 percent graduated with a
diploma.8 Dropout rates in the two- year period from 2002 to 2004 were
twice as high for tenth- grade students whose native language was not En-
glish, compared to native En glish speakers.9
Similar disparities exist among districts and schools. Education Week
estimates that the high school graduation rate for the class of 2007 among
the nation’s fty largest school districts ranged from 40 percent in Clark
County, Nevada, to 83 percent in Montgomery County, Mary land.10 One
study of Chicago’s eighty- six public high schools found that the gradua-
tion rates over a four- year period for students who entered the ninth grade
in 2000 varied from a low of 27 percent to a high of 90 percent!11
Not only is the graduation rate in the United States generally low and
highly variable, but it also appears to be getting worse. Nobel economist
James Heckman examined the various sources of data used to calculate
dropout and graduation rates and, after correcting for errors in previous
calculations, concluded that:
• The high school graduation rate is lower than the federal govern-
• It is lower today than it was forty years ago.
• Disparities in graduation rates among racial and ethnic minorities
have not improved over the past thirty- ve years.12
Reducing the number of dropouts has become a national policy con-
cern both inside and outside of the government:
• In February 2005, the nation’s governors held a two- day summit on
high schools where Microsoft CEO Bill Gates called American high
schools “obsolete,” noting that only 68 out of every 100 ninth graders
graduate, and six philanthropies pledged $42 million to raise high
school graduation rates.13
• The April 9, 2006, cover of Time magazine was titled “Dropout
Nation” and featured a number of stories about the dropout crisis in
• Oprah Winfrey dedicated her tele vi sion show on April 11, 2006, to
the nation’s dropout crisis.14
• On March 1, 2010 America’s Promise Alliance brought together
government, business, and community leaders to launch the “Grad
Nation campaign” with a goal of a 90 percent national graduation
rate by 2020.15 At this event, President Barack Obama stated, “This is a
problem we cannot afford to accept and we cannot afford to ignore.
The stakes are too high— for our children, for our economy, and for
our country. It’s time for all of us to come together— parents, students,
principals and teachers, business leaders and elected of cials from
across the po liti cal spectrum— to end America’s dropout crisis.”16
Such concern is not new. In 1990, twenty years before the launch of the
Grad Nation campaign, the nation’s governors and President George H.W.
Bush adopted six National Education Goals for the year 2000.17 One of
these goals was to increase the high school graduation rate to 90 percent
and to eliminate the gap in high school graduation rates between minor-
ity and nonminority students. Sadly, as the gures above demonstrate, the
nation fell well short of that goal.
Going back even further, in 1963 President John F. Kennedy initiated a
national “Summer Dropout Campaign” to increase publicity about the
problem and to assist local school districts in identifying potential drop-
outs and helping to return these students to school in the fall.18 Kennedy’s
efforts were part of a growing nationwide concern over the plight of ado-
lescents who failed to nish high school— a concern that historian Sher-
man Dorn argues was the beginning of the identi cation of dropping out
as an important social problem worthy of widespread public attention.19
The national concern for dropouts is re ected in numerous studies and
programs focusing on this issue at the national, state, and local levels. Since
1988, the federal government alone has spent more than $300 million on
dropout prevention programs.20 Many states have enacted their own pro-
grams to assist local schools and districts in addressing this issue. And re-
search on school dropouts has increased dramatically over the past de cade.
But why is there so much concern?
There are a number of reasons. One is economic. Dropping out of school
is costly both for dropouts themselves and for society as a whole. First,
dropouts have dif culty nding jobs. Government data show that only 31
percent of students who dropped out of school in the 2009– 10 school year
were employed the following October.21 America’s recent economic reces-
sion has been particularly hard on dropouts: in December 2010 only 44
percent of high school dropouts sixteen to twenty- four years of age were
employed, compared to 60 percent of high school completers who were
not enrolled in school.22
Second, even if they nd a job, dropouts earn substantially less than high
school graduates. In 2008, the median annual earnings of high school drop-
outs working full- time over an entire year were 22 percent less than those
of high school graduates.23 Over their working lives, dropouts earn $260,000
less than high school graduates.24
Dropouts’ poor economic outcomes are due in part to their low levels of
education; yet dropouts can, and sometimes do, return to school. Almost
two- thirds of eighth- grade students who dropped out of school before their
originally scheduled graduation date in 1992 completed either a regular
high school diploma (19 percent) or a GED or alternative certi cate (43
percent) by the year 2000.25 And dropouts who earned a high school di-
ploma were more likely to enroll in postsecondary education than stu-
dents who did not complete high school (60 percent versus 15 percent).26
Nonetheless, dropouts as a group are much less likely to enroll in postsec-
ondary education than high school graduates, even though most states al-
low dropouts to enroll in community colleges without a high school di-
ploma. Thus, dropouts’ poor economic prospects are due not simply to
the fact that they fail to nish high school, but also to their continued
underinvestment in education over their lifetime.
Dropouts experience other negative outcomes.27 They have poorer health
and higher rates of mortality than high school graduates; they are more
likely than graduates to engage in criminal behavior and be incarcerated
over their lifetimes. For instance, black male dropouts have a 60 percent
probability of being incarcerated over their lifetime, a rate three times
higher than for black male graduates.28 Dropouts are also more likely to re-
quire public assistance and are less likely to vote. Although the observed re-
lationship between dropping out and these economic and social outcomes
does not necessarily imply a causal relationship, a growing body of research
evidence has demonstrated one. This suggests that efforts to reduce dropout
rates would, in fact, reduce these negative economic and social outcomes.
The negative outcomes from dropouts generate huge social costs to citizens
and taxpayers. Federal, state, and local governments collect fewer taxes from
dropouts. The government also subsidizes the poorer health, higher criminal
activity, and increased public assistance of dropouts. One recent study esti-
mated that each new high school graduate would generate more than $200,000
in government savings, and that cutting in half the dropout rate from a sin-
gle group of twenty- year- olds would save taxpayers more than $45 billion.29
A second reason for the growing concern about the dropout problem is
demographic. The proportion of students who are racial, ethnic, and lin-
guistic minorities, who come from poor families, and who live in single-
parent households— all factors that research has shown are associated with
school failure and dropping out— is increasing in the nation’s schools.30 The
most profound change is the growth of the Hispanic school- age population,
which is projected to grow from 11 million in 2006 to 28 million in 2050, an
increase of 166 percent, while the non- Hispanic school- age population is
projected to increase by just 4 percent over this same period.31 Because the
rate of high school failure is higher among Hispanics and it improved more
slowly in the 1990s than for whites and blacks, the increasing proportion of
Hispanics in the school- age population could increase the overall number
of dropouts even with marginal improvements in the dropout rate.
A third reason is the growing push for accountability in the nation’s
public schools that has produced policies to end social promotion (the
practice of promoting a student to the next grade level despite low achieve-
ment) and to institute high school exit exams that could increase the
number of students who fail to complete high school.32
A nal reason for widespread concern over dropping out is that it is re-
lated to a host of other social problems facing adolescents today. As noted
by the Forum on Adolescence, created by the National Institute of Medi-
cine and the National Research Council to bring authoritative, nonparti-
san research to bear on policy issues facing adolescents and their families:
One of the important insights to emerge from scienti c inquiry
into adolescence in the past two de cades is that problem behav-
iors, as well as health- enhancing ones, tend to cluster in the same
individual, and these behaviors tend to reinforce one another.
Crime, dropping out of school, teenage pregnancy and childbear-
ing, and drug abuse typically are considered separately, but in the
real world they often occur together. Teenagers who drink and
smoke are more likely to initiate sex earlier than their peers; those
who engage in these behavior patterns often have a history of dif-
culties in school.33
If students face such a bleak future by dropping out of school, why do they
do it? The question de es an easy answer.
Dropouts themselves report a wide variety of reasons for leaving school,
including those related to school, family, and work.34 The most speci c
reasons cited by tenth graders who dropped out in 2002 were “missed too
many school days” (44 percent); “thought it would be easier to get a GED”
(41 percent); “getting poor grades/failing school” (38 percent); “did not
like school” (37 percent); and “could not keep up with schoolwork” (32 per-
cent). But these reasons do not reveal the underlying causes of why students
quit school, particularly those causes or factors in elementary or middle
school that may have contributed to students’ attitudes, behaviors, and
school per for mance immediately preceding their decision to leave school.
Moreover, if many factors contribute to this phenomenon over a long pe-
riod of time, it is virtually impossible to demonstrate a causal connection
between any single factor and the decision to quit school.
Although for the most part existing research is unable to identify unique
causes, a vast empirical research literature has examined numerous pre-
dictors of dropping out of and graduating from high school. The empiri-
cal research comes from a number of social science disciplines and has
identi ed two types of factors: (1) individual factors associated with stu-
dents themselves, such as their attitudes, behaviors, school per for mance,
and prior experiences; and (2) contextual factors found in students’ fami-
lies, schools, and communities.
. The research has identi ed a wide variety of
individual factors that are associated with dropping out. Attitudes and be-
haviors during high school predict dropping out. Dropout rates are higher
among students who have low educational and occupational aspirations.
Absenteeism, misbehavior in school, and pregnancy are also related to
dropping out. Finally, poor academic achievement is a strong predictor of
dropping out. Together, these factors support the idea that dropping out is
in uenced by both the social and the academic experiences of students in
In addition to these proximal factors, a number of distal factors prior to
entering high school are associated with dropping out. One is student mo-
bility. Both residential mobility (changing residences) and school mobility
(changing schools) increase the risk of dropping out of high school.35 Stu-
dent mobility may represent a less severe form of student disengagement
or withdrawal from school. That is, students may change schools in an
attempt to nd a more suitable or supportive school environment before
quitting school altogether. For example, one study found that students typi-
cally attend two or more high schools before dropping out.36
Another distal factor is retention, or being held back a grade in school.
Although retention may have some positive impact on academic achieve-
ment in the short run, numerous studies have found that it greatly increases
the likelihood that students will drop out of school. Finally, a number of
long- term studies have found that lack of early academic achievement and
engagement (e.g., failing courses, absenteeism, misbehavior) in elementary
and middle school predicts withdrawal from high school.
While a large array of individual attitudes, behaviors, and aspects of edu-
cational per for mance in uence dropping out and graduating, these indi-
vidual factors are shaped by the institutional settings where children live. As
noted by the Forum on Adolescence, “Another important insight of scien-
ti c inquiry is the profound in uence of settings on adolescents’ behavior
and development.”37 This perspective is common in such social science
disciplines as economics, sociology, and anthropology, and more recently
has been incorporated in an emerging paradigm in developmental psy-
chology called developmental behavioral science.38 This paradigm recog-
nizes that the various settings or contexts in which children live— families,
schools, and communities— all shape their attitudes, behaviors, and expe-
riences (see Figure 1.1). For example, the National Research Council
Panel on High- Risk Youth (1993) concluded that too much emphasis has
been placed on “high- risk” youth and not enough on the high- risk set-
tings in which they live and go to school.39 Similarly, a 2004 review of the
literature on childhood poverty identi ed a wide variety of family, school,
and community environmental factors that impede the development of poor
children.40 Both reviews re ect the growing emphasis on understanding
how these contexts shape educational outcomes.
This new perspective has important implications for studying and under-
standing the problem of school dropouts. By studying the experiences of
dropouts in par tic u lar settings, anthropologists have long illustrated the
Figure 1.1. The in uence of context on adolescent development over time.
Source: Richard Jessor, “Successful Adolescent Development among Youth in High- Risk
Settings,” American Psychologist 48 (1993): gure 2.
importance of the family, school, and community contexts in understand-
ing dropouts.41 Recent developments in statistics have also allowed quanti-
tative researchers to study the in uence of context, particularly the school
setting, on academic per for mance across large numbers of schools.42 Rela-
tively little of this work, however, has speci cally focused on dropouts.
Nonetheless, there is a growing body of research that has identi ed an
array of factors in families, schools, and communities that affect a child’s
likelihood of dropping out of school.43
. Among the three types of contextual factors,
families are the most critical. Family background is widely recognized as
the single most important contributor to success in school. Socioeconomic
status, most commonly mea sured by parental education and family income,
is a powerful predictor of school achievement and dropout behavior. Parental
education in uences students’ aspirations and educational support (e.g, help
with homework), while family income provides resources to support their
children’s education, including access to better quality schools, after- school
and summer school programs, and support for learning within the home
(e.g, computers). In addition, students whose parents monitor and regulate
their activities, provide emotional support, encourage in de pen dent decision-
making (practicing what is known as authoritative parenting style), and are
generally more involved in their schooling are less likely to drop out.44 Addi-
tionally, students living in single- parent homes and with stepfamilies are
more likely to drop out of school than students in two- parent families.
Schools are a second contextual factor. It is widely acknowledged that
schools exert powerful in uences on student achievement, including drop-
out rates. Four types of school characteristics in uence student per for-
mance, including the propensity to drop out or to graduate:
1. Social composition, such as the characteristics of students attending
the schools, particularly the socioeconomic composition of the
2. Structural characteristics, such as size, location, and school control
(public traditional, public charter, private).
3. School resources, such as funding, teacher quality, and the
4. Policies and practices, such as the academic and social climate.
School characteristics in uence dropout behavior in two ways. One
way is indirectly, by creating conditions that in uence student engagement,
which can lead to students’ voluntarily withdrawing from school due to
boredom, poor attendance, or low achievement. Another way is directly,
through explicit policies and conscious decisions by school personnel that
lead to students’ involuntarily withdrawing from school. Schools may enact
rules and/or take actions in response to low grades, poor attendance, mis-
behavior (such as zero- tolerance policies), or exceeding the compulsory
schooling age that lead to suspensions, expulsions, or forced transfers.
This form of withdrawal is school- initiated and contrasts with the
student- initiated form mentioned previously. Some schools, for example,
contribute to students’ involuntary departure from school by systemati-
cally excluding and discharging “troublemakers” and other problematic
In addition to families and schools, communities and peer groups can
in uence students’ withdrawal from school. Differences in neighborhood
characteristics help explain disparities in dropout rates among communi-
ties, apart from the in uence of families.46 Some neighborhoods, particu-
larly those with high concentrations of African- Americans, are communi-
ties of concentrated disadvantage with extremely high levels of joblessness,
family instability, poor health, substance abuse, poverty, welfare de pen-
den cy, and crime.47 Disadvantaged communities may in uence child and
adolescent development through the lack of resources (playgrounds and
parks, after- school programs) or negative peer in uences.48 Community
residents may also in uence parenting practices over and above parental
education and income. Students living in poor communities may also be
more likely to have dropouts as friends, which increases the likelihood of
dropping out of school.
Settings are important in in uencing dropout behavior, but similar set-
tings also affect individuals differently. Why is it that some students persist
in school while living in poor families or attending “bad” schools? These
different outcomes arise not only because of so- called objective differences
in individuals— intelligence, race, or family situation— but also because of
how individuals view or interpret their conditions. Thus, dropping out of
school cannot be understood simply by studying the conditions of families
and schools, or even the behaviors of students, but must also be under-
stood by studying the views and interpretations of those conditions and
behaviors by dropouts themselves. Anthropological studies of dropouts are
based on this premise.
Finally, understanding why students drop out requires looking at school
experiences and per for mance over a long period of time. Dropping out is
more of a pro cess than an event. Students don’t suddenly drop out of school.
Many dropouts show patterns of early school failure— disruptive behavior,
failing grades, repeating a grade— that eventually lead them to give up or
be pushed out, like Cesar was.49
Knowledge about why students drop out suggests several things about
what can be done to design effective dropout intervention strategies. First,
because dropping out is in uenced by both individual and institutional
factors, intervention strategies can focus on either or both sets of factors.
That is, intervention strategies can address the individual values, attitudes,
and behaviors associated with dropping out, without attempting to alter
the characteristics of families, schools, and communities that may contrib-
ute to those individual factors. Alternatively, intervention strategies can
attempt to improve the environmental contexts of potential dropouts by
providing resources and supports to strengthen or restructure their families,
schools, and communities.
Second, because dropping out is associated with both academic and so-
cial problems, effective prevention strategies must focus on both areas.50
That is, if dropout prevention strategies are going to be effective, they must
be comprehensive, providing resources and supports in all areas of students’
lives. Because dropouts leave school for a variety of reasons, ser vices pro-
vided to them must be exible and tailored to their individual needs.
Third, because the problematic attitudes and behaviors of students at
risk of dropping out appear as early as elementary school, dropout preven-
tion strategies can and should begin early in a child’s educational career.
Dropout prevention programs often target high school or middle school
students who may have already experienced years of educational failure or
unsolved problems. Instead, early intervention may be the most powerful
and cost- effective approach to dropout prevention.51
There are three alternative approaches for improving dropout and grad-
1. Programmatic approaches involve creating programs that target a sub-
set of students who are most at risk of dropping out (or have already done
so), by providing either supplemental ser vices to students within an exist-
ing school program or a complete alternative school program within a
comprehensive high school (school- within- a-school, such as an academy)
or in a separate facility (alternative school).
2. Comprehensive approaches involve schoolwide reforms that attempt
to change school environments to improve outcomes for all students.
The most common approach is to reform existing schools by developing
a comprehensive set of practices and programs locally or by adopting an
externally developed comprehensive school reform (CSR) model. A sec-
ond approach is to create new schools, by either establishing a new school
locally or adopting an externally developed whole school model. The most
pop u lar type of new schools are charters— public schools that are estab-
lished and managed outside the regular public education system, and that
are freed from most regulations and requirements of regular public schools.
The number of charter schools— half of which include high school
grades— and charter school students more than tripled over the ten- year
period from 1999– 2000 to 2009– 10.52 The third approach— which can
be combined with the other two— is to create collaborative relationships
between schools and outside government agencies and local community
organizations to provide ser vices and programs for students and their
3. Systemic approaches involve making changes to the entire educational
system— what some scholars have labeled “systemic school reform”— under
the assumption that such changes can transform how all schools function
in the system and therefore have widespread impact.53 Systemic reform can
occur at the federal, state, or local level of government.
All three approaches have a limited record of success.
The U.S. Department of Education established the What Works
Clearing house (WWC) in 2002 to review scienti c evidence on the ef-
fectiveness of a variety of educational interventions, including dropout
programs. In 2008, the WWC reviewed eighty- four studies of twenty- two
dropout prevention (and recovery) programs and found only twenty- three
studies of sixteen interventions that met their evidence standards— twelve
of the programs were student- support or alternative education programs
and four were CSR or new school models— and assessed their effective-
ness in improving three student outcomes: (1) staying in school, (2) pro-
gressing in school, and (3) completing school.54 Of the twelve student
support programs, ve were judged to be effective in keeping students in
school, four were effective in helping students progress in school, and four
were effective in helping students to complete school. Of the four CSR or
new school models, only one was effective at keeping students in school,
two were effective in helping students progress in school, and none was
effective in helping students to complete school. Moreover, none of these
four programs was effective in helping students earn a regular high school
diploma; rather, they helped students earn an equivalent diploma by
passing the General Educational Development (GED) test. This distinc-
tion is important for two reasons: rst, research has demonstrated that
students who earn a GED do not enjoy the same economic bene ts as
students who earn a regular high school diploma,55 and second, most edu-
cational accountability systems reward schools and districts only when
students earn regular diplomas.56 Three other reviews of the research evi-
dence on dropout interventions also found a limited number of effective
Evidence on the effectiveness of systemic interventions is also mixed.
Increasing the compulsory schooling age to eigh teen helps to improve grad-
uation rates, but increasing high school graduation requirements— such
as adopting exit exams or a college preparatory curriculum for all students—
does not. Creating alternative pathways in either the public or private sec-
tor for students to earn a high school diploma also shows mixed outcomes.
In par tic u lar, several recent large- scale studies found that some charter
schools outpace their traditional counterparts, while other charter schools
There is more consistent and compelling evidence for two early inter-
ventions: preschool programs and class- size reduction in early elementary
school. Both produce signi cant improvements in high school graduation
Studies have examined not only the effectiveness of dropout prevention
strategies but also their costs and economic bene ts. One recent study
found that ve speci c interventions— from preschool programs to a high
school reform model— produced economic bene ts that were two to three
times their costs.58 These ndings document the economic bene ts of
investing in proven dropout prevention interventions.
The remainder of this book explores the four dimensions of the dropout
problem— the nature, consequences, causes, and solutions— in greater detail.
In doing so, I uncover a number of dilemmas and complexities that make
understanding and solving America’s dropout crisis more dif cult than it
I begin by providing a brief history of high schools and the varying re-
quirements and pathways for graduating. Beginning with their inception
in the nineteenth century, I examine the long- standing debate over the
purposes and goals of high schools in the United States, from a selective
institution preparing advantaged students for entry to college to a compre-
hensive institution preparing all students for college, careers, and citizen-
ship. I also investigate an ongoing dilemma: What should the graduation
requirements be for all students, even those who do not want to go to col-
lege? Under the mantra of “college for all,” states have been raising the
academic requirements for earning a high school diploma to those required
for entry into four- year colleges despite evidence that more than one- third
of future jobs will require no training beyond high school.59
The next chapter examines the nature of the dropout problem. What
does it mean to drop out and what is the relationship between dropping
out and graduating? The relationship is more complex than it may seem—
a student can drop out several times over his or her educational career but
can graduate only once. Also, just because a student never withdraws from
school doesn’t mean that he or she will eventually graduate. So dropping
out and graduating are not opposite sides of the same coin. Another issue
we’ll explore in the chapter is how to mea sure dropout and graduation
rates. The topic is important— it is valuable to know how many students
who enter a high school eventually graduate— yet mea sur ing such a grad-
uation rate accurately is actually quite dif cult and has generated consid-
erable controversy. The dif culty is due in part to inaccurate or incom-
plete data as well as to how the statistics are calculated. Accurate dropout
and graduation statistics are also important for determining whether the
problem is getting better or worse and which students and schools are do-
ing better or worse.
The subsequent two chapters examine the economic and social conse-
quences of dropping out, both for dropouts and for the larger society. It
may seem more logical to examine the causes of dropping out before ex-
amining the consequences. But it is important rst to document the im-
pact of dropping out in order to show its widespread effect and the impact
on society if the problem is not suf ciently addressed.
Dropouts suffer in a number of ways— they are less likely to nd a job
and, once employed, are less likely to earn enough money to live, com-
pared to more educated workers; they have poorer health; they are more
likely to commit crimes and to be incarcerated; and they are less likely
to vote. These consequences yield huge social costs. Yet while these dis-
advantages are well documented, the evidence is less clear that dropping
out of school actually “causes” these outcomes. Some of the characteristics
of dropouts that lead them to quit school— such as poor work habits or
lack of motivation— may contribute to these poor outcomes outside of
school. So it is often dif cult to determine the causal connection between
dropping out and subsequent outcomes. Nonetheless, a growing body of re-
search evidence does nd a causal connection, which supports the no-
tion that reducing dropout rates and raising graduation rates may in fact
improve the economic and social outcomes for dropouts.
The next two chapters examine the causes of dropping out. Here, too, the
problem is complex. Research reveals a broad array of factors that in u-
ence a student’s likelihood of staying in school. Some immediately precede
the decision to quit school, such as failing courses or skipping school. But
others are more distant. For example, research shows that poor academic
per for mance in middle school and even elementary school can decrease a
student’s motivation in high school, which can lead to failing courses and
skipping school, the more immediate precursors to dropping out. One im-
portant issue to consider is the extent to which factors that in uence drop-
ping out are similar to those that in uence other forms of student achieve-
ment , suc h a s test per for mance. Such information is critical in determining
whether common reform strategies can be used to improve both graduation
rates and test scores, or whether different reform strategies are required.
The next chapter examines past efforts to address the problem and why
they have largely failed. Since the causes of dropping out are complex, so
must the solutions be. In other words, there is no simple prescription for
solving the nation’s dropout crisis. Like other educational outcomes, drop-
ping out is only partially a result of what takes place in school. Consequently,
the solution must involve more than schools. Yet most attempts to address
the problem of school dropouts in the United States have focused on
schools, and most of those attempts have relied on two strategies— mandating
sanctions for students and schools to do better, and providing more money
for dropout programs. And both strategies have largely been unsuccessful
at solving the problem.
The nal chapter discusses current efforts to address the nation’s drop-
out crisis, including the Obama administration’s efforts to turn around
the nation’s per sis tent ly lowest- achieving schools, and why those efforts are
insuf cient. I argue that substantially improving the nation’s graduation
rate will require more fundamental reforms, such as rede ning high school
success to include a broader array of skills and abilities that have been
shown to improve labor- market per for mance and adult well- being.
The book draws on a variety of evidence to examine these four dimensions
of the dropout problem. Statistical data are used to provide a broad, factual
overview, and research articles and reports provide evidence on the conse-
quences, causes, and solutions.
The book also draws on my own experiences in conducting research on
dropouts over the past thirty years, and two speci c efforts to do some-
thing about it.
The rst was a dropout intervention project in a Los Angeles middle
school in the rst half of the 1990s.60 The intervention was designed and
implemented by a colleague, with funding from the U.S. Department of
Education. The school was probably similar to many other urban schools
across America. The students were mostly poor and predominantly La-
tino. Over the four years we worked there, we found it to be a place of lit-
tle learning, much rejection, and senseless cruelty.
Our intervention project attempted to counter this environment for a
small group of the most problematic and lowest- achieving youngsters in
the school, including Cesar. Although originally designed to focus on prob-
lem solving, monitoring, and training, over time our intervention expanded
to become more involved in support and advocacy for students and their
families. We also worked much more with people in the community and
came to realize that helping students succeed in school required us to
work with them in all the arenas of their lives— schools, families, and
communities. Through our own experiences, we “discovered” what nota-
ble academics were saying about how contexts shaped dropout behavior.
A rigorous evaluation of our intervention project showed that it was
highly successful— that is, a much higher proportion of “our” students
stayed in school than a comparable group of other students.61 More im-
portant, it gave us a chance to become closely acquainted with the more
than one hundred students and their families whom we worked with over
the four years of the project, and we gained valuable insights into how
schools and community organizations often fail to provide the support
and nurturing “at- risk” students need, or worse yet, how they actively push
students out. We also discovered that the highest- risk students we were
working with required constant support to succeed in school, something we
were unable to provide past the ninth grade. Consequently, only a third of
the students we worked with in middle school ever completed high school.
A second effort to address the dropout problem is a current project I am
directing, the California Dropout Research Project (CDRP). The project,
which began in December 2006, was designed to synthesize existing re-
search and undertake new research to inform policy makers and the larger
public about the nature of— and effective solutions to— the dropout prob-
lem in California. To date, the project commissioned seventeen research
studies and produced thirteen statistical briefs to investigate four facets of
the issue: (1) the mea sure ment and incidence of dropping out; (2) the edu-
cational, social, and economic costs of dropouts for individuals and the
state; (3) the short- term and long- term causes of dropping out; and (4) pos-
sible solutions.62 The project also established the Policy Committee, com-
posed of researchers, practitioners, policy makers, and a community activist.
This committee issued a report on February 27, 2008, with a series of
recommendations on what schools, districts, and the state should do to
improve California’s high school graduation rate. I discuss these recom-
mendations in the nal chapter.
This project also yielded a valuable lesson: simply producing timely and
useful information is insuf cient to in uence policy change. It is also nec-
essary to disseminate the information and work with policy makers to
enact legislation based on the policy recommendations. So the project
undertook a multifaceted dissemination strategy. One facet was to make
the research ndings understandable and accessible to a large number of
people— policy makers, educators, and a variety of stakeholders in this wide-
spread problem. To reach this audience, we produced policy briefs—1,500-
word summaries written for a lay audience— from each of the research
reports. These briefs were distributed in print to all superintendents and
legislators in California.
A second facet of the dissemination strategy was to create a website
where project publications and other information on dropout efforts from
across the United States were available. The project website currently at-
tracts about 2,000 visitors a month, and to date the sixty- six project publi-
cations have been downloaded more than 50,000 times.
A third facet is to generate media exposure to publicize the work of the
project and maintain a sense of urgency among the larger public about
the need to address the problem. Through press releases, op- ed articles,
and media events, the project has generated more than twenty tele vi sion
clips on major California news channels, thirty articles and editorials in
the state’s major newspapers, and three op- ed articles.
Another lesson learned from this project was that to effect policy change
involves working with individuals and organizations on the issue over an
extended period of time. A key individual in California is Darrell Stein-
berg, who made high school dropouts the central focus of his legislative
agenda after his election to the California Senate in November 2008.
After his election he created the Senate Select Committee on High School
Graduation to serve as a forum to educate fellow senators and the public
about the dropout problem in California. Over the course of twelve months,
the committee held ve hearings that featured the work of CDRP. The
senator also sponsored a series of bills addressing the dropout problem in
California, three of which incorporated recommendations from CDRP’s
Policy Committee, where the senator served as a member.
My personal experiences in these two efforts provide valuable insights
into the challenges and dif culties in effecting change in both practice
and policy designed to keep students from dropping out of school.
Finally, these sources are augmented with personal accounts and
quotations from students and dropouts themselves. These accounts are
drawn from a number of in- depth case studies that describe the ordeals
and challenges facing young dropouts or would- be dropouts in America,
• Angela Valenzuela’s account of students in a Houston high school,
Nilda Flores- González’s account of students in a Chicago high
school and Michelle Fine’s account of students in a New York City
• Harriet Romo and Toni Falbo’s study of one hundred Latino stu-
dents in Austin, Texas, as they progress through high school.64
• Deirdre Kelly’s story of students in two continuation high schools in
• Mark Fleisher’s account of female gang members in Kansas City,
• Kathryn Edin and Maria Kefalas’s study of poor single mothers in
• Mercer Sullivan’s study of youth crime and work in three Brooklyn
The real story of dropouts is the story of individual young people, like
Cesar. It is a story of their personal lives and histories, and, ultimately, their
struggle to succeed.
1. The names of the student and of the school are pseudonyms. This account comes
from a dropout- intervention program conducted by the author and a colleague in
the school. See Katherine A. Larson and Russell W. Rumberger, “ALAS: Achieve-
ment for Latinos through Academic Success,” in Staying in School: A Technical
Report of Three Dropout Prevention Projects for Middle School Students with
Learning and Emotional Disabilities, ed. H. Thorton (Minneapolis: University of
Minnesota, Institute on Community Integration, 1995).
2. Robert Stillwell, Jennifer Sable, and Chris Plotts, Public School Graduates and
Dropouts from the Common Core Data: School Year 2008– 09 (NCES 2011- 312)
(Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department
o f E d u c a t i o n , 2 0 11 ) , h t t p : / / n c e s . e d . g o v / P u b s e a r c h / P u b s i n f o . A s p ? P u b i d =
2011312 (accessed May 9, 2011), table 4.
3. “Diplomas Count 2010: Graduation by the Numbers: Putting Data to Work for
Student Success,” Education Week, June 10, 2010, www .edweek .org/ Ew/ Toc/
2010/ 06/ 10/ Index .html (accessed August 28, 2010), 25.
4. Thomas D. Snyder and Sally A. Dillow, Digest of Education Statistics 2010
(NCES 2011- 015) (Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics,
U.S. Department of Education, 2011), http:// nces .ed .gov/ Pubsearch/ Pubsinfo
.Asp ?Pubid = 2011015 (accessed May 9, 2011), table 9.
5. Stillwell, Sable, and Plotts, Public School Graduates, table 4.
6. Snyder and Dillow, Digest of Education Statistics 2010, table 37.
7. “Diplomas Count 2010,” 24.
8. Special- education students are entitled to receive ser vices for a speci ed
number of years, often until they reach age twenty- one. They may exit school
at that time with a regular diploma, an alternative diploma, a certi cate of
attendance, or no certi cate. See Snyder and Dillow, Digest of Education
Statistics 2010, table 117.
9. Russell W. Rumberger, Tenth Grade Dropout Rates by Native Language, Race/
Ethnicity, and Socioeconomic Status (Santa Barbara: University of California
Notes to Pages 2–4
Linguistic Minority Research Institute, 2006), http:// lmri .ucsb .edu/
Publications (accessed January 17, 2011), gure 1.
10. “Diplomas Count 2010,” 25.
11. Elaine Allensworth, Graduation and Dropout Trends in Chicago: A Look at
Cohorts of Students from 1991 through 2004 (Chicago: Consortium on
Chicago School Research, 2005), http:// ccsr .uchicago .edu/ content/ publications
.php ?pub _id = 61 & list = t (accessed January 17, 2011), table 5.1.
12. James J. Heckman and Paul A. Lafontaine, “The American High School
Graduation Rate: Trends and Levels,” Review of Economics and Statistics 92
(2010): 244– 262.
13. “Meeting Summary,” 2005 NGA Winter Meeting and Education Summit,
Washington, DC, February 26– March 1, www .nga .org/ portal/ site/ nga/ menuitem
.f3e4d086ac6dda968a278110501010a0/ ?vgnextoid = cf9f28a5f7ca7110VgnVC
M1000001a01010aRCRD (accessed February 15, 2011).
14. “What the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Wants You to Know,”
w w w . o p r a h . c o m / d a t e d / o p r a h s h o w / o p r a h s h o w _ 2 0 0 6 0 4 1 1 ( a c c e s s e d
February 15, 2011).
1 5 . S e e w w w . a m e r i c a s p r o m i s e . o r g / O u r - W o r k / G r a d - N a t i o n . a s p x .
16. “Remarks by the President at the America’s Promise Alliance Education Event,
U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Washington, D.C.,” March 1, 2010, www
.whitehouse .gov/ the -press -of ce/ remarks -president -americas -promise -alliance
-education -event (accessed August 27, 2010).
17. National Goals for Education (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Educa-
18. The 1963 Dropout Campaign (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health,
Education, and Welfare, 1964).
19. Sherman Dorn, Creating the Dropout: An Institutional and Social History of
School Failure (Westport, CT: Praeger, 1996).
20. The largest of these was the School Dropout Demonstration Assistance
Program (SDDAP), which funded $294 million in targeted and school reform
programs from 1989 to 1996. An evaluation of the last and largest phase of
the program found that most programs had little impact on reducing dropout
rates. See Mark Dynarski and Philip Gleason, How Can We Help? What We
Have Learned from Federal Dropout- Prevention Programs (Prince ton, NJ:
Mathematica Policy Research, 1998).
21. College Enrollment and Work Activity of 2010 High School Graduates (Wash-
ington, DC: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2011), www
.bls .gov/ schedule/ archives/ all _nr .htm #HSGEC (accessed May 9, 2011), table 1.
22. Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey (Washington, DC:
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, 2010), www .bls .gov/ Cps/
Tables .Htm #Nempstat _M (accessed January 17, 2011), table A-16.
Notes to Pages 4–6
23. Susan Aud et al., The Condition of Education 2010 (NCES 2010- 028) (Washing-
ton, DC: National Center for Education Statistics, 2010), http:// nces .ed .gov/
pubsearch/ pubsinfo .asp ?pubid = 2010028 (accessed January 17, 2011), table
24. Cecilia E. Rouse, “Consequences for the Labor Market,” in The Price We Pay:
Economic and Social Consequences of Inadequate Education, ed. C.R. Bel eld
and H.M. Levin (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2007),
99– 141. Rouse estimates that if dropouts who completed high school attended
college at rates similar to those of high school graduates, the difference would
25. Susan Rotermund, Education and Economic Consequences for Students Who
Drop Out of High School, Statistical Brief 5 (Santa Barbara: California
Dropout Research Project, University of California, 2007), http:// cdrp .ucsb
.edu/ Dropouts/ Pubs _Statbriefs .Htm #5 (accessed January 17, 2011), gure 1.
26. Ibid., Figure 2.
27. Clive Bel eld and Harry M. Levin, eds., The Price We Pay: Economic and
Social Consequences of Inadequate Education (Washington, DC: Brookings
Institution Press, 2007).
28. Becky Pettit and Bruce Western, “Mass Imprisonment and the Life Course:
Race and Class In e qual ity in U.S. Incarceration,” American So cio log i cal
Review 69 (2004): 151– 169.
29. Henry M. Levin and Clive R. Bel eld, “Educational Interventions to Raise
High School Graduation Rates,” in The Price We Pay: Economic and Social
Consequences of Inadequate Education, ed. C.R. Bel eld and H.M. Levin
(Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2007), 177– 199, 194.
30. Aud et al., The Condition of Education 2010.
31. Rick Fry and Felisa Gonzales, One- in- Five and Growing Fast: A Pro le of
Hispanic Public School Students (Washington, DC: Pew Hispanic Center, 2008),
http:// pewhispanic .org/ Files/ Reports/ 92 .Pdf (accessed January 17, 2011), i.
32. Russell W. Rumberger and Sun Ah Lim, Why Students Drop Out of School: A
Review of 25 Years of Research (Santa Barbara: California Dropout Research
Project, University of California, 2008), http:// cdrp .ucsb .edu/ Dropouts/ Pubs _
Reports .Htm #15 (accessed January 17, 2011).
33. Michele D. Kipke, ed., Risks and Opportunities: Synthesis of Studies on
Adolescence, National Research Council and Institute of Medicine, Forum on
Adolescence (Washington, D.C.: National Academic Press, 1999), 11– 12.
34. Susan Rotermund, Why Students Drop Out of High School: Comparisons from
Three National Surveys, Statistical Brief 2 (Santa Barbara: California Dropout
Research Project, University of California, 2007), http:// cdrp .ucsb .edu/
Dropouts/ Pubs _Statbriefs .Htm #2 (accessed January 17, 2011). See also John
M. Bridgeland, John J. DiIulio Jr., and Karen Burke Morison, The Silent
Notes to Pages 7–10
Epidemic: Perspectives on High School Dropouts (Washington, DC: Civil
35. Robert Haveman, Barbara Wolfe, and James Spaulding, “Childhood Events
and Circumstances In uencing High School Completion, “Demography 28
(1991): 133– 157; Russell W. Rumberger, “Dropping Out of Middle School: A
Multilevel Analysis of Students and Schools,” American Educational Research
Journal 32 (1995): 583– 625; Russell W. Rumberger and Katherine A. Larson,
“Student Mobility and the Increased Risk of High School Dropout,” American
Journal of Education 107 (1998): 1– 35; Christopher B. Swanson and Barbara
Schneider, “Students on the Move: Residential and Educational Mobility
inAmerica’s Schools,” Sociology of Education 72 (1999): 54– 67; Jay D.
Teachman, Kathleen Paasch, and Karen Carver, “School Capital and
Dropping Out of School.” Journal of Marriage and the Family 58 (1996):
36. Rumberger and Larson, “Student Mobility.”
37. Kipke, Risks and Opportunities, 12.
38. Richard Jessor, “Successful Adolescent Development among Youth in High-
Risk Settings,” American Psychologist 48 (1993): 117– 126.
39. National Research Council Panel on High- Risk Youth, Losing Generations:
Adolescents in High- Risk Settings (Washington, DC: National Academy Press,
40. Gary W. Evans, “The Environment of Childhood Poverty,” American Psycholo-
gist 59 (2004): 77– 92.
41. See, for example, Henry T. Trueba, George Spindler, and Louise Spindler,
eds., What Do Anthropologists Have to Say about Dropouts? (New York:
Falmer Press, 1989).
42. Russell W. Rumberger and Gregory J. Palardy, “Multilevel Models for School
Effectiveness Research,” in Handbook of Quantitative Methodology for the
Social Sciences, ed. D. Kaplan (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2004),
43. See Rumberger and Lim, Why Students Drop Out of School. Rumberger and
Lim reviewed 203 empirical studies from academic journals published over
the 25- year period from 1983 to 2007. The summary in the text is based on
44. Russell W. Rumberger, Rita Ghatak, Gary Poulos, Philip L. Ritter, and
Sanford M. Dornbusch, “Family in uences on dropout behavior in one
California high school.” Sociology of Education 63 (1990): 283– 299;
Rumberger, “Dropping Out of Middle School.”
45. Michelle Fine, Framing Dropouts: Notes on the Politics of an Urban Public
High School (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1991); Carolyn Riehl,
“Labeling and Letting Go: An Or gan i za tion al Analysis of How High School
Notes to Pages 10–12
Students Are Discharged as Dropouts,” in Research in Sociology of Education
and Socialization, ed. A.M. Pallas (New York: JAI Press, 1999), 231– 268.
46. Rebecca L. Clark, Neighborhood Effects on Dropping Out of School Among
Tee nage Boys (Washington, DC: The Urban Institute); Jonathan Crane, “The
Epidemic Theory of Ghettos and Neighborhood Effects on Dropping Out and
Teenage Childbearing,” American Journal of Sociology 96 (1991): 1226– 1259.
47. Robert J. Sampson, Jeffrey D. Morenoff, and Thomas Gannon- Rowley,
“Assessing ‘Neighborhood Effects’: Social Pro cesses and New Directions in
Research,” Annual Review of Sociology 28 (2002): 443– 478.
48. Tama Leventhal and Jeanne Brooks- Gunn, “The Neighborhoods They Live
in: The Effects of Neighborhood Residence on Child and Adolescent Out-
comes,” Psychological Bulletin 126 (2000): 309– 337; Maureen T. Hallinan and
Richard A. Williams, “Students’ Characteristics and the Peer- in uence
Pro cess,” Sociology of Education 63 (1990): 122– 132; William J. Wilson, The
Truly Disadvantaged: The Inner City, the Underclass, and Public Policy
(Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1987).
49. Karl L. Alexander, Doris R. Entwisle, and Nadir S. Kabbini, “The Dropout
Pro cess in Life Course Perspective: Early Risk Factors at Home and School,”
Teachers College Record 103 (2001): 760– 882; Byron L. Barrington and Bryan
Hendricks, “Differentiating Characteristics of High School Graduates,
Dropouts, and Nongraduates,” Journal of Educational Research 82 (1989):
309– 319; Robert B. Cairns, Beverley D. Cairns, and Holly J. Necherman,
“Early School Dropout: Con gurations and Determinants,” Child Develop-
ment 60 (1989): 1437– 1452; Margaret E. Ensminger and Anita L. Slusacick,
“Paths to High School Graduation or Dropout: A Longitudinal Study of a
First- Grade Cohort,” Sociology of Education 65 (1992): 95– 113; Helen E.
Garnier, Judith A. Stein, and Jennifer K. Jacobs, “The Pro cess of Dropping
Out of High School: A 19- Year Perspective,” American Educational Research
Journal 34 (1997): 395– 419; Melissa Roderick, The Path to Dropping Out
(Westport, CT: Auburn House, 1993).
50. See Mark Dynarski et al., Dropout Prevention: A Practice Guide (NCEE
2008- 4025) (Washington, DC: National Center for Education Evaluation and
Regional Assistance, U.S. Department of Education, 2008), http:// ies .ed .gov/
ncee/ wwc (accessed January 17, 2011).
51. Flavio Cunha and James J. Heckman, “Investing in Our Young People”
(working paper 16201, National Bureau of Economic Research, Cambridge,
MA, 2010), http:// papers .nber .org/ papers/ w16201 (accessed January 17, 2011).
52. Aud et al., The Condition of Education 2010, table A-32- 1; Chen- Su Chen,
Numbers and Types of Public Elementary and Secondary Schools from the
Common Core of Data: School Year 2009– 10 - First Look (Washington, DC:
National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education,
Notes to Pages 12–18
2011), http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2011345 (accessed
May 14, 2011), tables 2 and 3.
53. Marshall S. Smith and Jennifer O’Day, “Systemic School Reform,” in The
Politics of Curriculum and Testing, ed. S.H. Fuhrman and B. Malen (Philadel-
phia: Falmer Press, 1991), 233– 267.
54. WWC Topic Report: Dropout Prevention (Washington, DC: What Works
Clearinghouse, U.S. Department of Education, 2008), http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/
wwc/reports/dropout/topic (accessed January 17, 2011).
55. For a review of the research, see John H. Tyler, “Economic Bene ts of the
GED: Lessons from Recent Research,” Review of Educational Research 73
(2003): 369– 398.
56. For example, the federal accountability established under the No Child
LeftBehind (NCLB) Act requires states to improve high school graduation
rates where only regular diplomas are counted. See “Elementary and
Secondary Education: A Uniform Comparable Graduation Rate,” www .ed .
gov/ policy/ elsec/ reg/ proposal/ uniform -grad -rate .html (accessed February 15,
57. Comprehensive School Reform Quality Center, CSRQ Center Report on
Middle and High School Comprehensive School Reform Models (Washington,
DC: American Institutes for Research, 2006); Sarah Hooker and Betsy Brand,
Success at Every Step: How 23 Programs Support Youth on the Path to College
and Beyond (Washington, DC: American Youth Policy Forum, 2009), www
.aypf .org/ Publications/ Index .Htm (accessed August 27, 2010); Tali Klima,
Marna Miller, and Corey Nunlist, What Works? Targeted Truancy and
Dropout Programs in Middle and High School (Olympia: Washington State
Institute for Public Policy, 2009), www .wsipp .wa .gov/ topic .asp ?cat = 11 & subcat =
0 & dteslct = 0 (accessed January 17, 2011).
58. Levin and Bel eld, “Educational Interventions,” table 9- 6.
59. Anthony P. Carnevale, Nicole Smith, and Jeff Strohl, Help Wanted: Projections
of Jobs and Education Requirements through 2018 (Washington, DC: Center
forEducation and the Workforce, Georgetown University, 2010), http:// cew
.georgetown .edu (accessed January 17, 2011), Figure 2.2.
60. For a detailed description of the project, see Larson and Rumberger, “ALAS:
Achievement for Latinos through Academic Success.”
61. See Graduation Counts (Washington, DC: National Governors Association
Task Force on State High School Graduation Data, 2005), www .nga .org/ Files/
Pdf/ 0507GRAD .pdf (accessed January 17, 2011).
62. For more information, visit the project website, www .cdrp .ucsb .edu (accessed
February 15, 2011).
63. Angela Valenzuela, Subtractive Schooling: U.S.- Mexican Youth and the
Politics of Caring (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1999);
Notes to Pages 18–24
NildaFlores- González, School Kids/Street Kids: Identity Development in
Latino Students (New York: Teachers College Press, 2002); Fine, Framing
64. Harriett D. Romo and Toni Falbo, Latino High School Graduation: Defying
the Odds (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1996).
65. Deirdre M. Kelly, Last Chance High: How Girls and Boys Drop In and Out of
Alternative Schools (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1993).
66. Mark S. Fleisher, Dead End Kids: Gang Girls and the Boys They Know
(Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1998).
67. Kathryn Edin and Maria Kefalas, Promises I Can Keep: Why Poor Women Put
Motherhood before Marriage (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005).
68. Mercer L. Sullivan, “Getting Paid”: Youth Crime and Work in the Inner City
(Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1989).
2. The Varying Requirements and Pathways for Completing High School
1. Stephen Lamb, Alternative Pathways to High School Graduation: An Interna-
tional Comparison (Santa Barbara, CA: California Dropout Research Project,
2008), http:// cdrp .ucsb .edu/ dropouts/ pubs _reports .htm #7 (accessed January 17,
2. Sherman Dorn, Creating the Dropout: An Institutional and Social History of
School Failure (Westport, CT: Praeger, 1996), 36.
3. Thomas D. Snyder and Sally A. Dillow, Digest of Education Statistics 2010
(NCES 2011- 015) (Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics,
U.S. Department of Education, 2011), http:// nces .ed .gov/ Pubsearch/ Pubsinfo
.Asp ?Pubid = 2011015 (accessed May 9, 2011), table 50.
4. Dorn, Creating the Dropout, 39.
5. Marvin Lazerson and W. Norton Grubb, American Education and Vocational-
ism: A Documentary History, 1870– 1970 (New York: Teachers College Press,
1974), 2– 32.
6. This account is taken from Dorn, Creating the Dropout, 44.
7. David B. Tyack, The One Best System (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University
Press, 1974), 188.
8. Raymond E. Callahan, Education and the Cult of Ef ciency (Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 1962).
9. As quoted in Tyack, The One Best System, 188.
10. Richard Rothstein, Rebecca Jacobsen, and Tamara Wilder, Grading Educa-
tion: Getting Accountability Right (Washington, DC, and New York: Eco-
nomic Policy Institute and Teachers College Press, 2008), 19.
11. As quoted in Dorn, Creating the Dropout, 41.
12. All the material in this paragraph is taken from Dorn, Creating the Dropout, 42.
13. Tyack, The One Best System, 204.