Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Understanding the Experiences of Young People Who Leave High School Before Graduation

America's Promise Alliance at Tufts University has released a new study on students who do not complete high school, Don't Call Them Dropouts: Understanding the Experiences of Young People Who Leave High School  Before Graduation.  Other than in the title and the introduction, the report does not use the word dropouts.  In its interview of 200 students and survey results from 3,000 more, it found that these students do not think of themselves as dropouts.  The "term does not describe their experience of leaving school. Second, most of the interview participants and survey respondents had returned to school or re-engagement programs to complete their education."

Overall, the study made four major findings:

• Clusters of factors, rather than one event or cause, lead young people away from school. Young people disengage from school because of clusters of factors that affect their lives. There is no single cause driving most students to leave school, nor is there a uniform profile of students who leave school before graduation. Young people who ultimately reengage also do so because of multiple influences.

• Toxic environments. Young people who leave high school are likely to be growing up in harsh environments. That is, they describe surviving violence, being exposed to violence, being affected by adverse health events in their families, or experiencing school climates and policies that are unsafe, unsupportive or disrespectful.

• Yearning for supportive connections. Connectedness to others is both a risk factor and a protective factor for disengaging from school. The nature of relationships with parents, other family members, teachers, counselors, and peers can lead young people toward or away from school.

• Resilience, in need of more support and guidance to thrive. Young people who left school typically bounced back from difficult circumstances. Our data suggest that this resilience is a necessary quality for day-to-day coping, but insufficient by itself for longer-term positive development (what we call reaching up”). In order to thrive, young people require consistent support from people and places that combine caring connections with the capacity to help them navigate around obstacles.

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