First Advisor

Thomas Keller

Term of Graduation

Summer 2022

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Social Work and Social Research


Social Work




High school graduates -- Statistics, Alternative education, Motivation in education, Transfer students



Physical Description

1 online resource (ix, 130 pages)


In response to a "dropout crisis," over the past decade much effort was made to retain high school students. Recent years' trends indicated an overall increased level of graduation rates; however, there has been a largely overlooked student population, persisters, who did not earn a high school diploma by the expected graduation date but remain engaged and continue to work towards graduation into their fifth or even sixth year of high school.

Using exploratory CART analysis, this study examined what individual-level and school-level factors were most effective in distinguishing students who were persisters versus on-time graduates. Given that persisters disproportionately attended alternative schools, this study also examined the factors that could help identify students who transferred to alternative schools. In follow-up analyses, students' demographic and academic characteristics were compared across nodes to understand complex interactions between individual-level and school-level factors that affect students' educational experiences.

Implications of the findings in this study are discussed to address educational policies and practices as well as to provide insight for school staff to help identify potential persisters and provide tailored support towards students with different needs.


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