Date of Degree

6-2016

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Educational Psychology

Advisor

David Rindskopf

Advisor

Sophia Catsambis

Committee Members

Sophia Catsambis

Irvin Schonfeld

Subject Categories

Educational Psychology

Keywords

High School, Dropouts, Engagement, School Processes, Educational Longitudinal Study of 2002

Abstract

Dropping out of school has been viewed as a final stage in a cumulative process of disengagement. In recent years, the construct of engagement has received increased attention leading policymakers and scholars to suggest that efforts to increase engagement in school could reduce high school dropout rates. Using data from the Educational Longitudinal Study of 2002 (ELS:2002), this study examined the predictive relationship between tenth-grade students’ engagement and dropping out of high school. Engagement was viewed as a meta-construct comprised of multiple dimensions within three domains: behavioral, emotional, and cognitive. Additionally, this study examined how school processes, specifically administrator control and school morale, influenced students’ engagement on dropping out of high school. Hierarchical generalized linear modeling (HGLM) indicated that emotional engagement was a statistically significant predictor of dropping out of school, whereas, behavioral and cognitive engagement were not significant predictors. An analysis of the dimensions of engagement (i.e., conduct, class participation, class preparedness, attitudes about teachers, attitudes about the school social environment, attitudes about the school academic environment, persistence, and effort) revealed that students’ conduct in tenth-grade (i.e., lateness, cutting class, absent from school, not following school rules, and suspensions), a component of behavioral engagement, is a statistically significant predictor of dropping out. Students’ ninth-grade grade point average (GPA), age in tenth grade, and family characteristics (i.e., socioeconomic status, lives with both birth parents, and parental involvement) were also important predictors of dropping out. Furthermore, dropping out of high school did not depend on both students’ engagement and school processes (i.e., administrator control and school morale). Overall, the study findings support the need for high schools and districts to put systems in place that would track student engagement at the beginning of high school to identify at-risk students and provide them with additional supports. These findings also emphasize the need for further research to identify what school factors influence student engagement and when low levels of engagement begin to develop.

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