Evaluation of an Alternative School's Impact on the Graduation Rate Overall and for Students Receiving Free or Reduced Price Meals in One Local School System
Zimmerman, Wendy Lynn
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Free and reduced meals (FARM) students in one Maryland school system are dropping out of school at a rate almost five times greater than non-FARM students. In order to address the overall and the FARM subgroup dropout rate an intervention program was implemented. The program invited students with the greatest risk of dropping out to attend. Small class sizes and faculty that focused on building relationships and meeting each individual student’s social and emotional needs are hallmarks of the intervention. The effectiveness of the program was established through three tests: 1. Finding the average overall dropout rate before the inception of the program compared to dropout rate after the implementation; 2. A logistic regression to determine the probability of a student graduating from high school based on data from a group of students who attended the intervention as compared to a demographically matched group of students who did not attend; 3. A logistic regression to determine the probability of a student graduating based on data from a group of students who attended the program as compared to a pooled group of students who where invited to attend, but did not. The results suggest the program is effective; however, the reader should be cautioned as the results are based on a small sample size. The county experienced a 5.35% decrease in the overall dropout rate and a 6.80% decrease in the FARM dropout rate after the implementation of the program. Matched students who attended the program were almost fifteen times more likely to graduate than their peers who did not attend the program, and matched FARM students were fourteen times more likely to graduate. Students who attended the program had an almost nine times greater chance of graduating, and FARM students had an eight times greater probability of graduating, than students who were invited to attend but did not. The results show a relationship between the implementation of the dropout intervention program and a decrease in the dropout rate for the county and for the FARM subgroup.