Expanding the Understanding of High School Non-Graduates Through a Comparison of High School Dropouts and Persisters

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Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk

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Although persisters now represent the largest group of non-graduating high school students, they have received little attention in the research literature, leaving unanswered the question of how persisters differ from dropouts in terms of demographic characteristics, academic preparation, and key life outcomes. Using statewide linked-administrative education and labor market data, we applied multilevel modeling to examine the differences in demographic and academic characteristics between persisters and late (Year 4) dropouts. We identified several student- (i.e., race, special education participation, previous dropout, standardized test scores, on-track status, and attendance) and school- (i.e., school type, school size) level characteristics that related to the odds of persisting and dropping out in students’ fourth year of high school. Additionally, we used a descriptive approach and data visualization to illustrate the near-term academic, postsecondary enrollment, and labor market pathways of 4-year non-graduates. Our findings highlight the unique characteristics and outcomes of persisting non-graduates and underscore an enhanced understanding of non-graduation through examining both persisting students and dropouts.


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