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When dropouts return to school: A statewide look at the characteristics and education outcomes of Utah dropouts who re-enrolled in high school

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Each year, more than a million students drop out of U.S. high schools. Helping dropouts return to school gives these students another chance to earn a diploma and to expand their opportunities. It also raises graduation rates.

A new study from REL West's Dropout Prevention Alliance for Utah Students with Disabilities describes the prevalence, characteristics, and high school outcomes of these "re-enrollees." Over the conventional four years of high school, about a fifth of the students in Utah's 2011 high school graduating cohort dropped out at least once. Of these dropouts, about a fifth re-enrolled by 2011.

The study found that Black and English learner students are at greater risk of not graduating on time because of their high dropout and low re-enrollment rates and that the percentage of dropouts who returned to school decreased over the four years of high school. On average, re-enrollees accumulated fewer credits than were needed to graduate in four years.

However, the study also found that when dropouts re-enroll, some ultimately graduate: among re-enrollees, 26 percent graduated on time—within four years of entering high school—and 30 percent graduated within six years of entering high school.

Along with the study, REL West has created an accompanying animated summary that highlights key findings.