Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



College of Education and Human Services


Learning Sciences and Human Development

Committee Chair

Sharon B. Hayes

Committee Co-Chair

Joy Faini-Saab

Committee Member

Ernest Goeres

Committee Member

Lynne Schrum

Committee Member

Richard Walls


In the field of education, student performance has become an integral component when determining the effectiveness of schools, levels of student engagement, and a measure of the learning that is occurring in schools. In particular, certain criteria have been identified as appropriate measures for monitoring the effectiveness of school systems, individual school programs, and teacher merit. Included in these specific areas to be monitored are graduation and or dropout rates. While these have become a part of the major focus of those monitoring the effectiveness of schools across the country, it seems that little has been done to investigate what may be contributing to the phenomenon.;Thus far, most studies of the phenomenon of early school leaving, otherwise known as school dropout, seems to have become complacent and has therefore settled on merely identifying labels for the characteristics and or symptoms of this growing silent epidemic, Milliken (2007). While being able to identify or recognize such things as what symptoms may foretell the possibility that students in danger of academic failure may decide to dropout, I posit that a great deal more can be learned about the growing disparity between graduation and school dropout rates. This can be done by investigating the phenomenon through the lens of those who have actually made the decision to drop out.;My personal belief is that there is much to be said about discovering what may be contributing to those symptoms which may be contributing to early school leaving beyond the labeling of characteristics. I further believe that it will require attention from more than the classroom teachers' attempt to respond to the emotional needs of their students; however, this is an important step to the process.;My study is the result of my personal convictions that more needs to be understood about the underlying contributors to such things as poor attendance, inappropriate behavior, and or coursework failure. Therefore, the following questions have guided my research: (1) What contributes to an individual's decision to leave school early? and (2) How does the decision to leave school early affect the later life of the school dropout?;This research is framed in social constructivism and employed audio-taped interview sessions and transcripts of stories shared by participants pertaining to their experiences prior to enrolling in school, while attending school as well as what life has been like since each actually dropped out. The individual's constructed understandings of the complicating actions, evaluations of those action and subsequent resolutions have been used to reveal each person's positioning as a result of those experiences.;This research has provided evidence of what may be contributing to such things as feelings of marginalization, abandonment and disequilibrium from a very young age through the present. Using this information may be useful when reflecting on policy and practice that may need to be more sensitive to those factors that actually may be contributing to decision to leave school early. In addition, this information may be useful when rethinking the current trend that continues the operation of a deficit model wherein blaming the victim seems to be the typical response to the growing dilemma of school dropout. Further, this information has implications for teacher education, professional development and community awareness training practices that could serve the individual needs of our students as well as needs of the community at large. However, the responsibilities for these initiatives can only be addressed in a cooperative, collaborative fashion.