The Effects of a Middle School Dropout Prevention Program on the Academic Achievement of At-Risk Students: Implications for School Leaders
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Approximately 27% of students drop out of school each year in the United States (Dianda, 2008). Many of these students complete graduation requirements later giving the United States a 93% high school completion rate (U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2014). While there are many factors that may cause a student to not complete high school, retention can play a significant role. While there are positive effects to retaining a student, grade retention increases the risk of dropping out by 30 – 50 percent (Shane R. Jimerson, Anderson, & Whipple, 2002). Students that are retained in two grades are 90 percent more likely to drop out (Mann, 1987). Across the United States, there are interventions and programs designed to reduce the dropout rate by providing previously retained students the opportunity to complete two years of course material in one year in an effort to catch students up to their original graduating class. The purpose of this study was to examine the academic success of one of these grade recovery programs over time. Archival data on students who participated in Course Acceleration Remediation and Enrichment (C.A.R.E.) Academy were collected from Gizmo Independent School District (GISD) (pseudonym). Math and reading state assessment scores and end of the year math and language arts course grades for seventh and ninth grade were examined along with graduation completion rates of students who were successful in the program (n = 579). High school completion data were analyzed for the two cohorts who have matriculated past grade twelve. The study revealed C.A.R.E. Academy students had a lower passing percentage on seventh and ninth grade math state assessment exams and the ninth grade reading state assessment exam; however, had a higher passing percentage on the seventh grade reading state assessment exam and all examined courses (seventh grade math and language arts and ninth grade Algebra I and English I) when compared to the district at-risk population. Overall, C.A.R.E. Academy students that continued their education in GISD completed high school with a 97% graduation rate. The results of this study should encourage school leaders to not only understand the impact retention can have on the dropout rate and student progress but also what interventions are successful in supporting retained students.