Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
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Dropout Reduction: Prevention, Intervention, and Recovery


The following links provide some basic information to describe the high school dropout problem in Massachusetts and nationally.


Factors that May Place Students At-Risk

There are many factors that may place students at risk and contribute to a student's decision to drop out of school. These include school, community, and family related factors. In many cases, no one factor leads to a student's decision to drop out, rather it is a combination of factors. The following list was adapted from the publication by SE Wells (1990) At Risk Youth: Identification, Programs, and Recommendations and the Massachusetts Department of Education 1989 report Changing Schools and Communities: A Systematic Approach to Dropout Prevention.

Examples of School Factors:

  • Excessive use of discipline methods such as suspensions
  • Disregard of individual student learning styles
  • Institutional racism
  • Lack of relevant curriculum
  • Large enrollment/class size
  • Lack of language instruction
  • Lack of participation in school governance by key constituents
  • Lack of effective student assessment
  • Lack of diversity in instructional styles
  • Lack of professional development opportunities
  • Lack of cross-cultural sensitivity
  • Lack of appropriate role models
  • Low expectations from staff
  • Low parent/community involvement in school
  • Negative and/or unsafe school environment
  • Passive instructional strategies
  • Raised academic standards without adequate school support
  • Rigid daily and weekly schedules
  • Segregation by ability grouping or tracking

Examples of Community Factors:

  • Lack of community support services
  • Lack of community support for schools and linkages with schools
  • High incidence of criminal activity
  • Unsafe neighborhoods
  • High unemployment
  • Exploitation of youth, including sex trafficking
  • Lack of adequate health care
  • Lack of affordable housing
  • Proliferation of controlled substances

Examples of Family/Home Factors:

  • Low socioeconomic status
  • Numerous family responsibilities
  • No parental involvement in school
  • Low parental expectations
  • Non-English speaking home
  • Child abuse or neglect
  • Domestic violence
  • High mobility
  • Homelessness
  • Little opportunity for learning outside of school
  • Low educational attainment of parent(s)

Last Updated: July 21, 2009
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