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What makes the difference between graduating and dropping out

Why do some kids graduate from high school, while others drop out?

A recent study of high school students in Rochester -- a district almost identical to Buffalo in size and many other factors -- tried to tackle that question. The results of the University of Pennsylvania study, "Educational Success in the Face of Adversity as Measured by High School Graduation," are reported in Education Week.

Generally, the kids who went on to graduate tended to have something that the dropouts often lacked: relationships with adults who cared about them, expected them to succeed, and were willing to help them along the way.

High school graduation Jean-Claude Brizard, the Rochester superintendent, and Bolgen Vargas, a former Board of Education president there, write in Education Week:

"A majority of the students who graduated in the Rochester City School District's class of 2009 faced challenges similar to those that confronted the students who failed to graduate. For example, approximately 20 percent of the graduates were not living with either parent, but were instead in foster care, living with grandparents, or being cared for by siblings or friends. More than 92 percent identified themselves as members of a minority group, primarily African-American, Hispanic, or biracial. And 70 percent were receiving free or reduced-price lunch, an indicator of their economic status.

"The Rochester study focused on what helped students in such high-risk situations beat the odds and graduate. It found that successful students were able to take advantage of multiple protective factors, such as caring relationships with an adult, in many places -- at school, in the neighborhood, at home, within social-service organizations, and others...

"The graduates in Rochester's class of 2009 appeared to have benefited from [protective factors] in a way dropouts had not. They had at least one adult who (1) believed in and held high expectations for them, (2) modeled successful behaviors, and (3) was consistently present in their lives. The graduates' stories often included references to strong, robust relationships in multiple areas of their lives -- at home, at school, among their peers, and within their communities. Often, one relationship had led the student to another, and when loss was experienced, the others provided a safety net."

- Mary Pasciak

E-mail me at mpasciak@buffnews.com or follow me on Follow  SchoolZoneBlog on Twitter Twitter.

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About School Zone

Denise Jewell Gee

Denise Jewell Gee

Denise Jewell Gee joined The Buffalo News in 2007 and currently covers education and suburban schools. She also writes a column for the City & Region section and previously covered government in Erie County and Niagara Falls. Gee graduated from Boston University with degrees in journalism and political science.

@denisejewellgee | djgee@buffnews.com


Tiffany Lankes

Tiffany Lankes

Tiffany Lankes joined The Buffalo News in 2013 and primarily covers the Buffalo Public Schools. She has written about education since 2003 at newspapers in Florida and New York. In 2008, she was a nominated finalist for The Pulitzer Prize. Lankes is an Amherst native and graduate of Sacred Heart Academy and Syracuse University. She started her journalism career writing for the News’ NeXt section.

@TiffanyLankes | tlankes@buffnews.com


Sandra Tan

Sandra Tan

Sandra Tan has been a cityside reporter for The Buffalo News since 2000 and currently covers the Buffalo Public Schools beat. She previously covered the Williamsville school district and was a full-time education reporter for five years prior to joining The News. She graduated from the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.

@BNschoolzone | stan@buffnews.com


Deidre Williams

Deidre Williams

Deidre Williams began working for The Buffalo News in 1999 and currently covers Buffalo Public Schools. She formerly was a suburban reporter on the Northtowns beat and has been a cityside reporter covering communities since 2004. Williams has a mass communications degree from Towson University.

@DeidreWilliamsB | dswilliams@buffnews.com

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