In dropout prevention, effective teaching
practices are first line of defense
reduce the number of students who drop out of school, schools should go back to
the basics, advise researchers in a recent article in Remedial and Special
Education. Schools should focus on bringing effective teaching
practices in the classroom that engage students in learning rather than on
developing more social, behavioral and psychological interventions for high-risk
students, write researchers Loujeania Bost and Paul Riccomini.
While many dropout prevention programs contain academic components,
"effective teaching practices are largely absent from the milieu of
interventions and programs employed by schools to address dropout prevention,"
the researchers write.
This void persists even though the research has clearly connected dropping
out of school with prolonged low achievement, they write. Classroom
instructional design and delivery should be viewed as a strategy that is
directly related to dropout prevention efforts, the researchers say.
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Students with disabilities at high risk
reporting of dropout data is placing more pressure on schools and districts to
reduce dropout rates.
So far, improving
early reading and literacy, before- and after-school remediation programs,
summer programs, mentoring and tutoring programs and alternative schools have
been beneficial strategies. However, the scale of these efforts "remains
inadequate to significantly affect dropout rates," the researchers write.
Students with disabilities, a population that is at high risk of
dropping out, need to be better targeted in prevention and intervention efforts,
the researchers say. Approximately 51% of students with emotional and
behavioral disorders and 27% of students with learning disabilities drop out of
school, the researchers say.
"Rather unfortunately, the programs and strategies implemented in schools
generally focus on social, behavioral, and psychological interventions designed
to "fix" students and often do not include students with disabilities," the
Research on dropouts so far has focused largely on
identifying causative and predictive factors. But researchers are now
increasingly turning their attention to developing effective intervention
programs, this study states.
Understanding reasons for dropping
Students drop out of school for many different reasons. They
include high absenteeism, poor academic performance, poor grades, course failure
and retention, high-stakes testing requirements, and behavior problems leading
to excessive discipline problems.
Not all factors associated with dropping
out can be targeted for interventions. It is important to distinguish between
status variables and alterable variables, the researchers write.
Schools cannot design interventions for demographic factors related to
gender, family dynamics, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, disability, and
mobility. But they can target absenteeism, academic performance, behavior,
school climate, parental involvement, etc.
Recognizing the difference
between alterable and status variables is important when designing and
implementing dropout prevention interventions, the researchers
Dropping out is not a single impulsive action. Some students show
symptoms associated with dropping out in elementary school. Dropping out is a
multifaceted process with links to disengagement from school, the researchers
write. Four components essential to school engagement
• opportunities for success in schoolwork;
• a caring
and supportive environment;
• clear communication of the relevance of
education to future endeavors; and
• addressing students'
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Dropout prevention and school reform
diverse causative and predictive factors will help educators develop more
effective prevention programs and strategies, the researchers say.
Dropout prevention must be considered in the context of other
educational reforms and should not be treated as isolated programs, the
researchers say. Effective school learning, especially for students with diverse
needs includes three factors: characteristics of the learner, time allocated for
learning and quality of instruction. The use of research-validated practices
is essential to effective teaching practices, they note.
researchers summarized 10 principles of effective instruction and school
engagement from a technical report on effective teaching principles. (Ellis,
E.S., Worthington, L. & Larkin, M.J. "Executive summary of research
synthesis on effective teaching principles and the design of quality tools for
educators" Technical Report No. 6, University of Oregon, National Center to
Improve the Tools of Educators, 1994.)
10 principles of
The 10 principles are:
Engagement--The amount of time students are actively engaged in relevant
instructional tasks must increase.
2. Experience of success--If
students do not experience success, their motivation quickly disappears.
Content coverage and opportunity to learn--The more content is covered,
the greater the potential for student learning.
4. Grouping for
instruction--Students achieve the most when they are engaged in learning
activities supervised directly by teachers.
instruction--Students benefit from a carefully and systematically sequenced
series of prompted content, materials, tasks and teacher support.
Addressing forms of knowledge--Teachers should address all forms of
knowledge, declarative (basic facts and vocabulary); procedural knowledge (steps
used to solve problems), and conditional (when and where to use certain
7. Organizing knowledge--Moving from easier skills to
more difficult skills helps students make progress.
strategically--Teaching students strategies that can be applied across
various settings and situations helps them hone their skills.
instruction--Teachers can make instruction explicit by clearly stating the
goals of the lesson, structuring the lesson in an obvious format and presenting
content in a direct fashion.
10. Teaching sameness--Purposively
designing instruction to help students recognize patterns and organize knowledge
can help students learn.
"We cannot change what students learned last
year, where students come from, or what the students do when they leave the
classroom," the researchers conclude. "However, we can focus on designing and
delivering instruction that is more effective."
Instruction: An Inconspicuous Strategy for Dropout Prevention" by Loujeania Bost
and Paul Riccomini. Remedial and Special Education September/October 2006
Volume 27, Number 5, Pp. 301-311.
Published in ERN January
2007 Volume 20 Number 1