First Advisor

Armenta, Anthony

Document Type


Date Created



The high school dropout rate and the low skill set of high school graduates are of significant concern to stakeholders across the country. Based on a report released by the Education Research Center (2011), approximately 7,000 students drop out of school every day and of those students, a large percentage of them have only the basic skill sets that prevent them from accessing competitive vocational opportunities or successful entry into post-secondary education. Understanding the educational journey of students identified at risk could provide stakeholders with critical information with regard to educational reforms based on an early warning system and dropout prevention programming The purpose of this qualitative phenomenological study was to explore the lived experiences of participants who were identified in sixth grade as being at risk for dropping out of high school and who obtained their high school diploma on time despite barriers they had to overcome. Guided by the principles of constructivism, this study investigated the experience of five participants through in-depth, semi-structured interviews and their educational journeys from elementary through high school as at-risk students. Through analysis of the interview transcripts, six core themes emerged: personal regrets, disengagement, grade level transitions, lack of institutional supports systems, critical relationships, and self-determination. Implications for practice include recommendations for educational stakeholders regarding dropout prevention that extends from pre-kindergarten through high school that requires the use of an early warning system that aligns with district and community interventions.


At risk students, Dropout prevention, Early warning signs, High risk dropouts


158 pages

Local Identifiers


Rights Statement

Copyright is held by the author.