School Mental Health Project

Dropout Prevention

There is a high school dropout crisis far beyond the imagination of most Americans, concentrated in urban schools and relegating many thousands of minority children to a life of failure. We urgently need to address this problem as a nation. Our goal ... is to make the public aware of this issue and make improving high school graduation rates a central part of national education reform. We believe the first step must entail highlighting the severe racial disparities in high school graduation rates that exist at the school and district levels.

Gary Orfield (2004)
Dropouts in America:
Confronting the Graduation Rate Crisis

Every year, across the country, a dangerously high percentage of students disproportionately poor and minority disappear from the educational pipeline before graduating from high school. Nationally, only about 68% of all students who enter 9th grade will graduate "on time" with regular diplomas in 12th grade. While the graduation rate for white students is 75%, only approximately half of Black, Latino, and Native American students earn regular diplomas alongside their classmates. Graduation rates are even lower for Black, Latino and Native American males. Yet, because of misleading and inaccurate reporting of dropout and graduation rates, the public remains largely unaware of this educational and civil rights crisis.

The Civil Rights Project, UCLA, March 24, 2005
From: Confronting the Graduation Rate Crisis in California

Young adults who leave school short of high school graduation face many potential hardships and society pays a significant price. As the recent report from the Harvard Civil Rights Project states: "When high numbers of youth leave school ill-prepared to contribute to our labor force and to civic life, our economy and our democracy suffer. Life opportunities for these youth and for their offspring are dramatically curtailed. According to Russell Rumberger, Professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara, the 66,657 students who were reported as dropouts from the California public schools in the 2002-03 will cost the state $14 billion in lost wages. These costs rise significantly when one considers that the actual number of students who leave school without diplomas is much higher than the estimates provided by the state. Since the greatest economic benefits of earning a high school diploma as are realized in the next generation, the most significant loss is to their and our future."

For some quick facts on the impact of the dropout problem, see

What Does the Literature on Dropouts Tell Us to do About the Problem?

The National Dropout Prevention Center/Network has identified 15 effective strategies that have the most positive impact on the dropout rate. These strategies have been implemented successfully at all education levels and environments throughout the nation.

  • School and Community Perspective
    • Systemic Renewal
    • School-Community Collaboration
    • Safe Learning Environments
  • Early Interventions
    • Family Engagement
    • Early Childhood Education
    • Early Literacy Development
  • Basic Core Strategies
    • Mentoring/Tutoring
    • Service-Learning
    • Alternative Schooling
    • After-School Opportunities
  • Making the Most of Instruction
    • Professional Development
    • Active Learning
    • Educational Technology
    • Individualized Instruction
    • Career and Technical Education (CTE)
For more information, see:

See the specially developed Center Introductory Packet entitled:

Dropout Prevention

Need More?

Use the Center's Online Clearinghouse Quick Find on Dropout Prevention :
(It contains links to key references, empirically supported programs, and centers specializing in the topic and related topics.)

Other Quick Finds that may be helpful:
>>Alternative Schools and Alternative Education
>>Barriers to Learning
>>Classroom Climate/Culture
>>Classroom-focused Enabling
>>Environments that Support Learning
>>Learning Supports: Students to Succeed
>>Parent/Home Involvement in Schools
>>Parenting Skills and Parenting Education
>>Prevention for Students "At Risk"
>>Resilience/Protective Factors
>>School Avoidance
>>Social Promotion
>>Substance Abuse
>>Teen Pregnancy

Among the links you will find on various of the above Quick Finds are:

>>Dropout Rates in the United States: 2001 at

>>Keeping Kids in Schools from the American School Board Journal

>>The Real Truth about Low Graduation Rates, An Evidence-Based Commentary

A Few Websites Dealing Directly with Dropout Prevention - National Dropout Prevention Centers The Prevention Researcher - Focus Adolescent Services: Youth Who Drop Out School Dropout Prevention Program NCES: Public High School Dropouts and Completers from the Common Core of Data National Center for School Engagement Tutors for Kids Youth Build USA

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