Case Study of the Factors Contributing to Graduation from a Secondary Dropout Prevention Program

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Virginia Tech


The decision to drop out of high school can affect a person's life in many ways, as lifetime earnings, employment options, overall health, and the probability of incarceration are all negatively influenced when students drop out of school. The purpose of this qualitative case study was to investigate the perceptions of faculty, staff, parents, and high school graduates regarding factors leading to the high graduation rates of students in a dropout prevention program during the 2017–2018 and 2018–2019 school years. A total of 15 one-on-one interviews were conducted to collect data around participants' perceptions of how the application process; onboarding and orientation program; academic progress monitoring and interventions; and social, emotional, and mental health supports contributed to the program's high graduation rate. Data were reviewed, analyzed, and coded, resulting in emerging themes across the data set. Themes were then synthesized and aggregated into four findings. Findings indicated the advisor role and the student–advisor relationship, staff training in trauma-informed practices, staff collaboration, and providing a flexible and responsive program structure were factors influencing the high graduation rate of students in this dropout prevention program. These findings were used to develop four corresponding implications for district and school leaders to create and maintain structures where students are supported by at least one trusted adult, provide meaningful and consistent trauma-informed professional learning, create an environment where staff collaboration around student needs is a priority, and provide flexible schedules and options for students to positively affect student graduation from alternative educational settings.



alternative programs, dropout prevention, trauma-informed practices