Comparison of On-Track and Not-On-Track Senior High School Students: An Assessment of Student Needs and Social Characteristics



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The student dropout dilemma in the American educational system has remained unchanged for the past 30 years. Dropout figures show more than 6 million high school dropouts living in the United States today. The purpose of this study was to compare and analyze potential dropout variables between two groups of senior students at a local high school.

This study included 228 senior students who were identified within two groups: on-track for graduation and not-on-track for graduation based on state exit exam results. A student questionnaire and student records were used to gather data. The study included descriptive, multivariate, and analysis of variance to determine the relationship of variables between the two groups that may lead to increased probability of students belonging to either group.

Findings from the study suggested the following: 1.Not-on-track students desired more assistance from their school in educational development and planning. 2.On-track students had higher mean averages in academic scores. 3.Not-on-track students had fewer mothers, more children, and more adults living in the family home and were less represented in extracurricular activities. 4.Not-on-track students endorsed more negative responses about themselves.

Research suggests that state exit exam requirements for graduation most likely do not cause additional student dropouts; however, research shows that exit exams may be the tipping factor for many students to ultimately drop out. Thus, exit exams can possibly increase student dropouts. The not-on-track students in this study may be at their tipping point. The results from this study show on-track students have fewer dropout factors within their group and higher academic averages than students in the not-on-track group.

The following recommendations are based on the study:

  1. Further research should be conducted that uses a student need's assessment instrument but includes former students who dropped out.
  2. A study that concentrates on student's feelings of their school should be conducted at the middle school grade levels.
  3. A study comparing responses of students versus responses of teachers could shine light on the school environment.