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Knowledge From the Field

California High Schools That Beat the Odds in High School Graduation

Published: December 2007

Publisher(s): California Dropout Research Project

Author(s): Socias, Miguel; Lenay Dunn; Mari Muraki; Thomas Parrish; LaRena Woods

Funder(s): Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, James Irvine Foundation, Walter S. Johnson Foundation, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation

Related Organization(s): American Institutes for Research (AIR), University of California, Santa Barbara

View Report (39 pages; 512KB; PDF)

Area of Focus: Low-performing Schools

Abstract: Although the importance of graduating from high school is well documented, there is relatively little research literature on the strategies high schools can use to improve their graduation rates. To address this issue, this study identified 22 California schools that are “beating the odds” (BTO) in terms of graduation rates, dropout rates, and test scores, compared to schools with similar demographics and challenges. Interviews were conducted with principals of six of these BTO schools to determine the policies, procedures, and practices their leaders believe have contributed to their demonstrated ability to “beat the odds.”

Key Findings and/or Recommendations

+ Interviewed schools report a conscious effort to encourage students to stay engaged in school by providing connections between the student and the school. Personal relationships help teachers know if a student is struggling and in need of interventions.

+ The majority of interviewed schools cite parent and community involvement as a way to encourage low dropout rates; three principals emphasized the importance of being active in the broader community.

+ Schools state that they have worked to create a culture that supports graduation and college attendance (e.g., enrolling students in college preparatory courses, offering Advanced Placement courses for any student).

= Schools should identify students at risk of dropping out and offer these students interventions and support to stay in school.

- What is being done in one or more BTO schools may not transfer to other schools.

Geographic Focus : California

Subjects/Keywords : Low-performing schools; educational standards; beating the odds (BTO);  parent involvement; community involvement; low drop-out rates

+ Successful strategy
= Observation
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