A multilevel analysis of student persistence in high school

Mahoe, Rochelle A.
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University of Hawaii at Manoa
The high rates of high school dropouts have been a top educational concern for practitioners, policymakers, and researchers for the past few decades. Despite the extensive research, however, dropout rates have remained relatively stable and below expectations. This study reframes the dropout problem by focusing on the majority of students who remain in school and persist through graduation on time. The purpose of this study is to simultaneously examine the individual and school influences on student persistence during high school. The multilevel study on student persistence is separated into two phases: early persistence and late persistence. The early persistence phase followed a cohort of eighth graders through their scheduled tenth grade year, while the late persistence phase followed eighth graders through their scheduled twelfth grade year. The outcomes were based on students' educational status at the end of each year (e.g., in-grade, out-of-grade, or dropped out). The data for this study were obtained from the National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988 (NELS:88) conducted by the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES). The information was extracted from the student, dropout, and school surveys and student transcripts files. The first model included 13,177 individuals from 1018 schools and the second model included 12,329 individuals from 1150 schools. The results of the study showed that student persistence seems to be most influenced by individual-level factors (such as demographics, previous school experience, and their academic and social engagement). More specifically, students' academic experiences in the middle school years and early high school years appeared to have the greatest influence on graduating on time. Students who fell behind early academically were less likely to catch up and graduate. In addition, although there were only a few significant variables, the school-level findings suggested that schools could influence persistence rates. More specifically, public schools and low SES schools had considerably lower persistence rates. School efforts, such as reform efforts to improve student learning, for example, assisted students to be more successful, remain in school, and subsequently graduate on time.
xiv, 161 leaves
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