Nellie Meyer

Preventing High School Dropouts: What do Students Believe Caused Them to Leave the Comprehensive High School?


More than 7,000 students in our nation become dropouts every school day. One in three high school students do not graduate, and a higher proportion of African American and Hispanic youth do not earn a diploma. This study examined perceived reasons students reported for leaving the comprehensive high school. Further, it examined why students chose to continue at a continuation campus toward high school completion. The population consisted of students between the ages of 15–19 who are currently enrolled in a continuation high school in a large, diverse, community located in Southern California. Participants included thirty-two continuation high school students who had left the comprehensive high school setting. This study utilized qualitative research methodology with semi-structured interviews as well as three one on one individual interviews. Three research questions were explored: Why do students leave comprehensive high schools? What supports do students believe teachers and school leaders should provide to increase the likelihood that they will become motivated to stay at their comprehensive high school? What do students identify as factors that support their continuing educational experiences in an alternative setting? Responses were transcribed and coded to determine common themes and areas for further exploration. Significant findings of the interviews included: 1) Relationships are extremely important to students who have a lack of trust in how the educational system supports them. 2) There is a need for both students and adults to develop better human relations skills. and 3) There is a need to develop trusting school environments that supports close monitoring of student progress toward relevant student goals. The study’s findings may assist educators in creating more supportive learning environments that provide meaningful curriculum and programs to improve student learning. This study may also provide the research community with a more detailed understanding of student motivation and engagement, and may be used to more clearly understand factors that impede high school completion. Information gathered in this study could also be used to create structures within comprehensive high schools to better support struggling students before they decide to leave.

PK-12 Program, 2007 Cohort