High School Dropout: Perceptions and Voices of African American and Hispanic Students



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The purpose of this study was to investigate the perceptions of African American and Hispanic students who dropped out of school while exploring their schooling experiences and the factors they believe contributed to their decision to drop out. The case study approach was used in an effort to capture the informants? voices and the meanings they hold as students of color about the experience of dropping out. The findings from this study will contribute to the existing body of literature by contextualizing a student of color?s choice to dropout of school. The informants in this study were members of a large, diverse suburban high school, in a large school district in Southeast Texas. The 12 informants were purposefully selected resulting in seven Hispanic, five African American, seven female, and five male dropout students. A one-on-one interview with the informants generated data for this study. Additional data consisted of observations made by the researcher as a school administrator at the last school the informants attended and by prior knowledge about some of the informants from school records. The interpretational analysis process selected was based on Glaser and Strauss? constant comparative approach to analysis. The constant comparative data analysis generated three major themes of the factors that informants attributed to dropping out of school: (1) challenging home situations, (2) personal realities, and (3) school related factors that reflected a lack of support systems. The theoretical framework that grounded this study was based on Mehan?s Contextual Factors Surrounding Hispanic Dropouts. His construct suggested that for students of color dropping out was a function of social reproduction and deficit thinking. He further asserted that such outcomes were a result of school factors controlled and institutionalized by schools. However, contrary to Mahen?s theory, my informants noted challenging home situations as the primary consideration in their decision to drop out. My findings, based on the context of the Horizon High School, suggest that while the school as an institution is not responsible or accountable for the family factors that contribute to students? decision to drop out, it can provide systems of support for students to assist them in overcoming the causes outside of the school walls that contribute to their decision to leave.