Gradual Disengagement: A Portrait of Dropouts

Posted on October 04, 2010

Consistent markers on the road to dropping out

A new report from the Baltimore Education Research Consortium summarizes commonalities that join together individual stories of Baltimore City School dropouts. After examining surface-level demographics, the report probes into behavioral characteristics of these students in the years preceding the dropout event. The study finds the majority who eventually drop out of Baltimore high schools enter ninth grade with a pattern of chronic absenteeism that reaches back at least several years. A majority of eventual dropouts are overage for grade by the time they enter ninth grade for the first time, and have increasingly high levels of absenteeism and course failure over their years in high school. Grade retention patterns within the district (possibly influenced by accountability pressures related to test scores in the elementary and middle grades) may contribute to the issue and should be examined closely. The report recommends that alternatives to grade retention be implemented to prevent large numbers of overage students in middle and high schools. The study also recommends interventions during the early middle grades to prevent many dropout outcomes, with non-traditional credit-earning options offered to older enrolled students (17 and older) who already have patterns of chronic absenteeism and course failure.

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