First Advisor

Vogal, Linda R.

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Over the last 100 years, the overwhelming majority of Americans have attended this nation’s public schools. There are clearly documented deleterious effects for students who do not successfully graduate from high school. Further, scholars and practitioners have recognized the adverse impacts on communities and the economy. Unfortunately, Colorado youth persistently have graduated at lower rates than the national average. The information yielded from this study can assist school leaders who wish to identify middle school students at risk of not graduating on time in order to provide an intervention that will set them on a path to graduation. This study provides an extensive secondary data analysis of a cohort of 1,268 students, following them from sixth grade through their high school outcomes. A binomial logistic regression approach was used to test individual performance factors for their correlation to the outcomes of graduating on time, dropping out, and being on track to graduate at the end of the ninth grade, including core subject grade point average, chronic absence status, and the number of disciplinary incidents students experienced in each middle school year, sixth through eight. The moderation effect of student background factors was examined to determine their moderation effect on individual performance factors for each of the three outcomes. The variables studied were gender, free and reduced-price lunch status, race and ethnicity, disability status, and English language learner status. Three logistic regression models were tested, one for each grade level (sixth, seventh, and eighth), and this was repeated for each of the three outcome variables. The logistic regression models yielded significant results related to dropout status, graduating on time, and being on track in ninth grade. When the unique predictive value of core GPA, number of disciplinary incidents, and chronic absence status were analyzed within the models, core GPA was the single most significant variable. In the sixth grade, the number of disciplinary incidents experienced by students was also significantly associated with the odds of graduating on time. For the dropout status outcome, the background variable of race and ethnicity moderated the results favorably for students identified as White and less favorably for students identified as Hispanic or Latino. For the outcome of graduating on time, students identified as White benefited more than their non-White peers when their absences changed from chronic (absent 17 or more days of school) to non-chronic (absent less than 17 days of school) in sixth and eighth grades. Regarding the outcome of being on track at the end of the ninth grade, students identified as having a disability benefited more than their peers when their core GPA increased by a letter grade at all three grade levels. The implications of the findings from this study can provide specific guidance for school leaders in settings similar in size and demographics regarding which early warning indicators best predict the dependent variables of the study. Furthermore, school leaders can use the specific information about how each year of middle school is correlated with the early warning indicators, signaling that a student is off track for graduating on time and needs support and intervention. This study can positively impact students by increasing the likelihood they are identified for and receive targeted support that sets them on a path to graduate from high school on time, resulting in lifetime benefits for students, communities, and the economy at large.


156 pages

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