Instructional and structural factors related to successful dropout prevention and recovery programs
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The purpose of this study was to identify the salient factors that influence student dropouts and students on the verge of dropping out to return to school as well as the programmatic factors, both structural and instructional, that support students to compete graduation. Three research questions guided the study including: (1) What district-wide programmatic interventions, both structural and instructional, seem to be successful in retaining recovered dropouts and in keep students on the verge of dropping out in school actively engaged in pursuing graduation? (2) What motivates student dropouts and students on the verge of dropping out to return to school? and (3) What motivates recovered student dropouts and students on the verge of dropping out to remain in school? Accordingly, this study was designed with a qualitative collective case study approach to examine one high school dropout prevention program and one dropout recovery campus. Data collection included document reviews, in-depth interviews, and focus group discussions. Findings revealed stakeholders’ perceptions of the efficacy of several structural interventions to keep students on track to graduation. These included creating an academic options framework to meet student academic needs, using student cohort groups to monitor academic progress, and using campus leaver teams to track students who withdrew from school. Furthermore, the findings show the benefits of several instructional interventions including an online curriculum offering students flexibility to complete lost course credits, academic support through direct teaching and small group instruction, and individualized academic plans based on student needs. Finally, results showed that students were primarily motivated to return to school based on positive family influences and a desire for a better future. The study also revealed that students remained in school because of positive teacher relationships, small class sizes, and support services.