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Dropout Prevention Interventions

(2008)

This What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) topic report evaluates 16 dropout intervention programs that have been found to meet WWC evidence standards of effectiveness.

Pie chart

Dropout prevention interventions are school- and community-based initiatives that aim to keep students in school and encourage them to complete their high school education. To be included in the What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) review, interventions have to operate within the United States and include dropout prevention or dropout recovery as one of their primary objectives. The interventions reviewed provide a mix of services, such as counseling, monitoring, school restructuring, curriculum redesign, financial incentives, and community services to mitigate factors impeding academic success.

The review focuses on three outcome domains: staying in school, progressing in school, and completing school. As of September 2008, the WWC looked at 84 studies of 22 dropout prevention interventions that qualified for review. Of these, 23 studies of 16 interventions meet WWC evidence standards — 11 without reservations and 12 with reservations. The six other interventions have no studies that meet WWC eligibility or evidence screens.

In looking at the three outcome domains for the 16 interventions, four interventions had positive or potentially positive effects in two domains:

  • Accelerated Middle Schools had potentially positive effects on staying in school and positive effects on progressing in school
  • ALAS (Achievement for Latinos through Academic Success) had potentially positive effects on staying in school and on progressing in school
  • Career Academies had potentially positive effects on staying in school and on progressing in school
  • Check & Connect had positive effects on staying in school and potentially positive effects on progressing in school

Eight other interventions had potentially positive effects in one domain. Four had no discernible effects in any of the three domains.

Intervention ratings for dropout prevention

Each dropout prevention intervention that had at least one study meeting WWC standards (with or without reservations) received a rating of effectiveness in one or more of the three outcome domains: staying in school, progressing in school, and completing school. The ratings characterize evidence in a domain, taking into account the quality of the research design, the statistical significance of the findings, the size of the difference between participants in the intervention and comparison conditions, and the consistency in findings across studies.

The research evidence can be rated as positive, potentially positive, mixed, no discernible effects, potentially negative, or negative (see the WWC Intervention Rating Scheme).

Table 1 shows the effectiveness ratings for the 16 dropout prevention interventions (empty cells indicate that studies meeting standards did not report findings in that domain).

Table 1

Click to see full image

Average improvement indices

The WWC computes an average improvement index for each domain and each study and a domain average improvement index across studies of the same intervention (see the Technical Details of WWC-Conducted Computations).

The improvement index represents the difference between the percentile rank of the average student in the intervention condition and the percentile rank of the average student in the comparison condition. It can take on values between -50 and +50, with positive numbers denoting results favorable to the intervention group. Unlike the rating of effectiveness, which is based on four factors, the improvement index is based only on the size of the difference between the intervention and the comparison conditions.

Staying in school

The staying in school domain includes measures of whether the student remained enrolled in school or dropped out of school without earning a high school diploma or GED certificate, as well as the number of school days enrolled. The WWC reviewed outcomes in this domain for 9 dropout prevention interventions, and the average improvement index ranged from -3 to +42 percentile points (figure 1).

Figure 1

Note: Bold text indicates interventions with a medium to large extent of evidence.

Click to see full image

Progressing in school

The progressing in school domain includes measures of credits earned, grade promotion, whether the student is making normal progress toward graduation, and highest grade completed. The WWC reviewed outcomes in this domain for 11 interventions, and the average improvement index ranged from -6 to +35 percentile points (figure 2).

Figure 2

Note: Bold text indicates interventions with a medium to large extent of evidence.

Click to see full image

Completing school

The completing school domain includes measures of whether the student earned a high school diploma or received a GED certificate. The WWC reviewed outcomes in this domain for 11 interventions, and the average improvement index ranged from -3 to +17 percentile points (figure 3).

Figure 3

Note: Bold text indicates interventions with a medium to large extent of evidence.

Click to see full image


Table 2

The table includes all eligible interventions considered for the WWC dropout prevention review with no studies meeting eligibility screens or evidence standards.

Click to see full image

U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, What Works Clearinghouse.

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