A California study of “persistent strugglers.”–students who continue their education even though they have many risk factors for dropping out–found that these students are disproportionately Latino or other English Language Learners (ELLs). The students were high school seniors who continued their education despite failing to pass the required California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) by the fall of senior year when most students have passed it.
The 167 students were randomly selected 12th graders from four school districts in California. In spite of their academic difficulties, these students remained engaged in school, reporting spending between one to three hours on homework each week.
By the fall after their senior year, 47% of the students in the sample had passed CAHSEE. Of those who had not passed the test by the following fall, 72% reported being unable to pass the English Language Arts (ELA) section of the exam. Among students who did not receive a high school diploma, 13% re-enrolled in high school, 19% pursued other education options to earn their diplomas and 31% went on to attend community colleges. Student, family and educational characteristics did not predict various outcomes in this group.
“The lack of significant differences between graduates and non-graduates is a meaningful finding within this study and it supports the conclusion that these academically high-risk but persistent students are quite different from students who drop out of school prior to Grade 12,” the researchers write. They note that the state should support students who continue to persist in their education despite struggling with and/or failing to pass the CAHSEE.
California Dropout Research Project, Policy Brief 11, June 2008