Fellow 1990-91

Lizanne DeStefano

Educational Psychology

Factors contributing to persistence in school: Understanding the dropout dilemma

The future of our students in secondary special education is clouded with increased probabilities for dropping out of school and the accompanying problems of unemployment or underemployment, low earnings, and dependent living situations. In response to this problem, the purpose of the proposed research is 1) to identify factors within the individual, school, community, or family that seem to increase the likelihood of remaining in school and 2) to use this information to create or improve special programs for at-risk youth. 

The study will involve a comparative analysis of two cohorts of students: those who leave and those who persist in their school program. It is expected that approximately 20 pairs (leaver/persister) of students (N-40) will be selected for study.

Case study methodology will be used to develop rich descriptions of the individual circumstances of the sample of school leavers and persisters. The case studies will focus on a number of variables that research or intuition suggest may influence a student's persistence in school, such as family values, expectations, social networks, resource allocations, peer influence, the presence of mentors, the nature of the school program, and individual characteristics. Data sources will include interviews with students, staff, and family members, review of school records, observations, and anecdotal recordings.

Case study data will be analyzed both quantitatively and qualitatively. Results of quantitative and qualitative analyses will be compared. The findings of the study will be used to make recommendations for program design and improvements