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Practice Guide iconPractice Guide
Released: August 2008
PDF (1.6 MB)
Geared toward educators, administrators, and policymakers, this guide provides recommendations that focus on reducing high school dropout rates. Strategies presented include identifying and advocating for at-risk students, implementing programs to improve behavior and social skills, and keeping students engaged in the school environment.
Minimal Evidence
Utilize data systems that support a realistic diagnosis of the number of students who drop out and that help identify individual students at high risk of dropping out.
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Moderate Evidence
Assign adult advocates to students at risk of dropping out.
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Moderate Evidence
Provide academic support and enrichment to improve academic performance.
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Minimal Evidence
Implement programs to improve students’ classroom behavior and social skills.
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Moderate Evidence
Personalize the learning environment and instructional process.
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Moderate Evidence
Provide rigorous and relevant instruction to better engage students in learning and provide the skills needed to graduate and to serve them after they leave school.
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States, districts and schools should develop comprehensive, longitudinal, student level databases with unique IDs that, at a minimum, include data on student absences, grade retention, and low academic achievement. Data should be reviewed regularly, with a particular emphasis before the transitions to middle school and high school.

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Adult advocates should have an appropriate background and low caseloads, and be purposefully matched with students. Adequate training and support should be provided for advocates.

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Help students to improve academic performance and reengage in school. This should be implemented in conjunction with other recommendations.

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Students should establish attainable academic and behavioral goals and be recognized when they accomplish them. Schools can teach strategies.

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A personalized learning environment creates a sense of belonging and fosters a school climate where students and teachers get to know one another and can provide academic, social, and behavioral encouragement.

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Engagement can be increased by providing students with the necessary skills to complete high school and by introducing students to postsecondary options.

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Education Levels:
  • Middle Grades
  • High School
  • Administrator
  • Policymaker
  • Researcher
  • Teacher

This practice guide was prepared for the WWC by American Institutes for Research under contract ED-02-CO-0022.

The following research staff contributed to the guide: Kristin Hallgren, and Brian Gill.

  • Mark Dynarski (Chair)
    Mathematica Policy Research, Inc.
  • Linda Clarke
    City of Houston
  • Brian Cobb
    Colorado State University
  • Jeremy Finn
    State University of New York-Buffalo
  • Russell Rumberger
    University of California-Santa Barbara
  • Jay Smink
    National Dropout Prevention Center/Network

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