Personal tools
You are here: Home Research K-12 Education School Dropouts Essential Components of High School Dropout Prevention Reforms

Essential Components of High School Dropout Prevention Reforms

Authors: James McPartland, Will Jordan
Date Published: January 13, 2001

For the most troubled high schools, we argue in favor of a strict adherence to implementing a complete comprehensive reform model of the three key components—organization, instruction, and teacher support—where each component is established with no compromises that would weaken the self-contained Academy structure, the extended time and extra-help courses within a high standards curriculum, or the continuous support of teachers by expert inclass coaches for instructional innovations.
Related Documents


While no single reform model has yet emerged or is likely to in the future as the best or only way for dropout prevention, it can be argued with research that there are at least three broad categories of changes that should be present in any serious high school reform effort. These are (1) structural, organizational and governance changes to establish the school norms and interpersonal relations for learning, (2) curriculum and instructional innovations to give individual students the necessary time and help for success at a high standards program, and (3) teacher support systems to provide opportunities for faculty input and continuous backing required to implement ambitious changes. This paper reviews the arguments and evidence for why each change category must be included in any reform program that hopes to significantly reduce dropouts. One reform model, the Talent Development High School with Career Academies, will be used to illustrate specific changes in each category and the implementation issues which arise in the practical world.

The case that these components are essential for an effective high school dropout prevention approach can be made through a persuasive theory of action that explains how different reforms touch the major sources of high school student and teacher motivation, as well as with direct scientific evidence that ties specific school improvements to dropout reduction. A theory of action specifies how recommended reforms in manipulable variables, (those aspects of a school’s structure and practice that can be directly and purposively changed) will lead to intermediate improvements in the informal school learning environments (norms, expectations and relationships of students and staff) that in turn directly impact desired student outcomes (staying in school and associated successful student behaviors.) Scientific evidence is usually the result of evaluation studies that show significant improvements following the recommended reforms in dropout rates and their immediate behavioral predecessors such as student absenteeism, course failures and grade retentions in schools, compared to other schools with the same student demographics and size.

In compliance with the UC Open Access Policy, this report has been made available on eScholarship:

Document Actions

Copyright © 2010 UC Regents