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Can Supportive Programs Impact Dropout Rates?

CAN SUPPORTIVE PROGRAMS IMPACT DROPOUT RATES? A Review of Literature

Renata Simoes Barros

Rio International School

Abstract

I conducted a systematic review of studies that involved school-based programs related to at-risk students and dropout rates. The search yielded 6 studies covering five domains: (a) academic performance, (b) students’ resilience, (c) program fidelity, (d) program effectiveness, and (e) drop-out rates. The 6 studies reported outcomes for at-risk high school students in relation to drop-out rates. Most studies involved the use of programs that promote school engagement, which reinforce the belief that school is important, and this can affect – directly or indirectly – dropout rates in some point. The results of these 6 studies were largely positive, suggesting that supportive school-based programs can increase students’ engagement and decrease drop-out rates.

Keywords: program; drop-out; high school; at-risk students;

CAN SUPPORTIVE PROGRAMS IMPACT DROPOUT RATES? A Review of Literature

During high school, students face “many behavioral, academic, and social-emotional challenges” that can compromise their perseverance in finishing school, and graduate. (Flannery et al, 2014). Research by Lehr et al. showed that “high school dropout and graduation rates remain a top concern for educators and policy makers, despite decades of research and school-based intervention” (as cited by Freeman et al, 2015). Studies from Hammond, Linton, Smink, Drew, and the National Dropout Preventions Center and Communities in Schools (2007) showed that dropout risk factors – individual, family, community, and school – can be impacted by exemplary programs. Bryk et al. defended that initiatives/programs that “are able to keep students successfully engaged in the school community may addressed multiple drop-out risk factors (as cited by Freeman et al, 2015, page 293). Jimerson, Egeland, Sroufe, & Carlson affirmed that “dropping out is often the result of a long process of disengagement” (as cited by Freeman et al, 2015, page 294). Flannery et al. (2014) assume that today is a challenge to keep students engaged in high school, and avoiding dropout. As studied by Fenning et al, to reduce behaviors’ problems and students ‘engagement it is necessary “focus on an approach that is prevention-oriented in nature” (as cited in Flannery et al, 2014, page 112). Rumberger and Rumberger defended researches that indicate “student characteristics including being from a low-income family, coming from a non-English speaking home, and being Latina/o or African American increases the likelihood of dropping out” (as cited in Harris, D. M., & Kiyama, J. M. 2015, page 185). Researches by Malecki et al. have indicated that “school support and a positive learning climate are important contributors to the academic success of at-risk youth” (as cited in Llamas et al., 2014, page 196) As stated by Bridgeland, Dilulio, & Morrison, dropouts can cause unemployment, “living in poverty, need for public assistance, prison, on death row, unhealthy, divorced and ultimately single parents with children who drop out of high school themselves” (as cited in Burks, J., & Hochbein, C., 2015, page 348). As studied by Harlow et al, dropouts have affected the general economy in United States (as cited in Burks, J., & Hochbein, C., 2015, page 348).

This literature review shows evidences regarding the implementation of programs to high school students considered at-risk, in order to provide support and more chances of achievement and school completion. The main objectives of the present review were: (a) the programs in place, (b) how they work, and (c) the effectiveness of the programs in order to reduce drop-out rates. This review was primarily intended to inform about the school and community-based programs in place that can impact students’ engagement and drop-out rates.

2. Methods

A systematic search was conducted to understand the impact of supportive programs to improve students’ engagement and reduce drop-out rates in high school. Identified studies that met pre-determined inclusion criteria were summarized in terms of participants, target behaviors, procedures, and results.

2.1. Search Strategy

I searched ERIC and PsycARTICLE, journals online, using a combination of the following free-text terms with truncation and Boolean operators: drop-out, at-risk, program, intervention, prevention, high school, study. The search was limited to English-language, peer-reviewed journals, and since 2012 to 2016.

2.2 Inclusion Criteria.

Included studies focused on the use of programs in order to help at-risk high school students and intervention or prevention for dropout rates. To be included in this review, the programs had to be specifically used for the purpose of supporting high school students, increasing engagement, improving behavior or response, and academic performance, social, communication, and/or other adaptive behaviors. The study also had to have provided intervention to high school students. Articles that did not report data on the direct or indirect effects of the supportive program in students’ engagement and dropout rates were excluded.

2.3. Data Extraction

Studies that met the inclusion criteria were summarized in terms of: (a) participants (number and grades) (b) experimental design, (c) target behavior, (d) intervention procedures, and (e) results.

2.4. Inter-observer Agreement

A total of 56 articles were identified from the initial search strategies. The abstract for each of these 56 articles was then examined, resulting in 13 articles that were retained for screening against the inclusion criteria by one reviewer. Agreement as to whether or not the study met the inclusion criteria was 100%. This process resulted in the retention of 6 articles.

3. Results

Table 1 provides a summary of the 6 studies focus on 5 supportive programs for students’ engagement, achievement, correlated to drop-outs rates.

Table 1StudyProgramsStudy PurposeStudy variables“The Students in Front of Us: Reform for the Current Generation of Urban High School Students” by Burks, J., & Hochbein, C. (2015).Project Proficiency – PP Objectives: substantial gains in reading and math proficiency; quickly improve achievement; and propagate PP to all PLA high schools.Examine the impact of

PP on the performance of students, who met dropout predictive criteria.To assess student achievement, it was analyzed math and social studies scores“Effects of school-wide positive behavioral interventions and supports and fidelity of implementation on problem behavior in high schools” by Flannery, K. B., Fenning, P., Kato, M. M., & McIntosh, K. (2014)School-wide Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (SWPBIS)

Objectives: improvements in school climate, reductions in disciplinary rule violations, and improvements in attendance and academic outcomesExamine the effects of School-Wide Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (SW-PBIS) on the levels of individual student problem behaviors and engagement.Effectiveness

of a SW-PBIS approach in high schools and considerations to enhance fidelity of

implementation.“An Analysis of the Relationship between Implementation of School-Wide Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports and High School Dropout Rates “by Freeman, J., Simonsen, B., McCoach, D. B., Sugai, G., Lombardi, A., & Horner, R. (2015).School-wide Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (SWPBIS)

Objectives: improvements in school climate, reductions in disciplinary rule violations, and improvements in attendance and academic outcomesThe purpose of this study was to explore the direct and indirect effects of SWPBIS on high school dropout rates.The implementation of SWPBIS with fidelity and

the school level event dropout rate including: average daily attendance rates and average academic performance in reading, math, and language arts.“The Role of School and Community-Based Programs in Aiding Latina/o High School Persistence” by Harris, D. M., & Kiyama, J. M. (2015).School and community-based programs: 1. Programs based solely in the community that have no presence in the schools such as the local Boys and Girls Club.

2. School-based programs that do not have presence and/or coordination

based in the community.

3. Community-school based programs with a presence in schools.Examine the important role school and community-based programs have for sustaining the persistence of Latina/o high school

students in an urban, low achieving school district.Factors influencing Latina/o dropout and factors influencing Latina/o success“Listening to Students: Examining Underlying Mechanisms That Contribute to the AVID Program’s Effectiveness” by Llamas, J. D., López, S. A., & Quirk, M. (2014)The AVID curriculum is focused on offering academic, school, and community supports.Examine the effects of the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program from the student perspective, specifically focusing on factors associated with student resilience.External assets measure of the Resilience Youth Development Module was used to examine external assets within the school environment.“A Network Perspective on Dropout Prevention in Two Cities” by Wells, R., Gifford, E., Bai, Y., & Corra, A. (2015)School systems and other organizations intervention to promote school completion.Examines how school systems and other local organizations have been working within two major U.S. cities to improve high school graduation rates.Measuring and contextualizing the structure of local dropout prevention efforts can inform better strategic investments of

leadership time as well as other resources.

3.1. Project Proficiency – PP

One study examined the impact of PP on the performance of students, who met dropout predictive criteria. Project Proficiency – PP was implemented with the objective to achieve substantial gains in students’ reading and math proficiency; quickly improve achievement; and propagate PP to all PLA high schools. The study took place in the participants’ classroom.

The intervention was focus on three objectives: substantial gains in reading and math proficiency; quickly improve achievement; and propagate PP to all PLA high schools. By four strategies: 1. reduction of the focus of core math courses to three key standards and a corresponding summative assessment; 2. operating within professional learning communities; 3. PP relied on standards-based teaching and assessment of student work; 4. educators guided students who scored below 80% to recover missed content until students earned 80% or higher. To assess student achievement, it was analyzed math and social studies scores from the state-administered KCCT. It was performed independent-samples tests for the equality of means to determine the demographic comparability of the non-PP and PP cohorts on the following variables: minority membership, gender, FRL status, Exceptional Child Education (ECE; special education), and English as a second language (ESL) designation. This study examines the influence of the PP program on the academic achievement (more focus on performance) of at-risk students in dropout. The results did not prove that the PP program caused decrease in student dropouts, neither increase in graduation rates.

3.2. School-wide Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (SWPBIS)

Two studies connected the improvements from this program – in school climate, reductions in disciplinary rule violations, and improvements in attendance and academic outcomes – to increase of students’ engagement and decrease of drop-out rates.

In the first study, Flannery et al. (2014) focused on explore the links between School-Wide Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports implemented with fidelity, dropout risk factors, and dropout rates by addressing “To what extent does SWPBIS implemented with fidelity at the high school level relate to (directly or indirectly) dropout rates?” The study hypothesized that this program may reduce dropout rates by improving a schools’ capacity to address relevant risk factors. By examining the effects of the program on the levels of individual student problem behaviors, and engagement by using as a sample 36,653 students in 12 high schools in U.S. in order to understand the effectiveness of a SW-PBIS approach in high schools and considerations to enhance fidelity of implementation. The process of implementing the program in certain way built the concept of team (more focus on relationship), which reflected to the effectiveness of the program in the school environment. It was also possible to relate SW-PBIS fidelity of implementation to the change in problem behavior. Engaging students in order to reduce behavior problems, may create meaningful and involvement, impacting dropout rates.

The second study by Freeman et al. (2015), aimed to explore the direct and indirect effects of SWPBIS on high school dropout rates. The implementation of SWPBIS with fidelity and the school level event dropout rate including: average daily attendance rates and average academic performance in reading, math, and language arts. During intervention, the SWPBIS was associated with improvements in school climate, reductions in disciplinary rule violations, and improvements in attendance and academic outcomes when implemented with fidelity. Also, it was associated with direct reductions in multiple behaviors related to dropout risk factors. The results of this study was more likely to show the program’s aspects more focus on relationship. The study did not find consistent direct short-term effects of SWPBIS on dropout rates; however, the results show significant positive effects on attendance, which indirectly affects dropout rates.

3.4. School and community-based programs

Two studies were identified that focused on how programs based in the community that have no presence in the schools, school-based programs that do not have presence and/or coordination based in the community, and community-school based programs with a presence in schools may impact students’ engagement and affect drop-out rates. The first study, Harris et al. (2015), aimed to identify factors influencing Latina/o dropout and factors influencing Latina/o success, by using 31 (English and Spanish) focus groups, which included 41 parents or guardians and 95 current and/or former students, in order to examine the important role school and community-based programs have for sustaining the persistence of Latina/o high school students in an urban, low achieving school district. The school district has been dealing with the persistent high dropout rates. Caring Adults plus programs to build relationships, plus mutual trust can provide and result social and academic support.

The second one, by Wells et al. (2015), was aimed to measure and contextualize the structure of how local dropout prevention efforts can inform better strategic investments of leadership time as well as other resources, by studying two cities chosen for additional data collection based on high participation in an online survey in order to understand how school systems and other local organizations have been working within two major U.S. cities to improve high school graduation rates. This study shows how local community’s support can impact schools and dropout rates, by collaborative work support.

3.5. Achievement Via Individual Development – AVID

One study (Llamas et al., 2014) aimed to analyze external assets measure of the Resilience Youth Development Module was used to examine external assets within the school environment by using as a sample 161 high school students, from two high schools in California, enrolled in the AVID program during the 2011–2012 in order Examine the effects of the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program from the student perspective, specifically focusing on factors associated with student resilience. The results showed that by building positive and robust relationships among teachers and students, the program can promote school engagement, which reinforce the belief that school is important, and this can affect dropout rates in some point.

4. Discussion

This systematic review aimed to evaluate the effectiveness of supportive programs in increase high school students’ engagement and decrease dropout rates. A systematic search identified 6 studies. The results of these 6 studies were largely positive, suggesting that supportive programs implemented with fidelity for longer periods of time may see greater reductions in dropout rates. The results of these 6 studies also suggest that supportive programs focus directly on build and improve relationship among students, school staff and teachers and indirectly on academic performance have more meaningful and statistically significant achievement gains.

While the results of this review suggest the potential value of incorporating school-based programs like AVID, SWPBIS, PP, and also community-based programs into students’ academic life in order to positively impact (indirectly) drop-out rates by the students’ engagement, and attendance rates.

Overall, the studies included in this review provide direct and indirect evidences that supportive programs like AVID, SWPBIS, PP, and also community-based programs can be successfully utilized within educational prevention and intervention for at-risk students, and drop-out rates.

References

Burks, J., & Hochbein, C. (2015). The Students in Front of Us: Reform for the Current Generation of Urban High School Students. Urban Education, 50(3), 346-376.

Flannery, K. B., Fenning, P., Kato, M. M., & McIntosh, K. (2014). Effects of school-wide positive behavioral interventions and supports and fidelity of implementation on problem behavior in high schools. School Psychology Quarterly, 29(2), 111-124. doi:10.1037/spq0000039

Freeman, J., Simonsen, B., McCoach, D. B., Sugai, G., Lombardi, A., & Horner, R. (2015). An Analysis of the Relationship between Implementation of School-Wide Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports and High School Dropout Rates. High School Journal, 98(4), 290-315.

Hacker, D & Sommers, N. (2011). A Writer’s Reference. Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin’s.

Harris, D. M., & Kiyama, J. M. (2015). The Role of School and Community-Based Programs in Aiding Latina/o High School Persistence. Education and Urban Society, 47(2), 182-206.

Llamas, J. D., López, S. A., & Quirk, M. (2014). Listening to Students: Examining Underlying Mechanisms That Contribute to the AVID Program’s Effectiveness. Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk, 19(3-4), 196-214.

Wells, R., Gifford, E., Bai, Y., & Corra, A. (2015). A Network Perspective on Dropout Prevention in Two Cities. Educational Administration Quarterly, 51(1), 27-57.

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