Date of Award

Fall 12-2014

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Department

Education

First Advisor

Dr. John D. Long

Second Advisor

Dr. Beth Kania-Gosche

Third Advisor

Dr. Ingrid Clark-Jackson

Abstract

This study investigated the effectiveness of a new dropout prevention program, Project WALK, which was launched at a low-income high school in Missouri during the 2012–2013 school year. After examining alarming dropout statistics, Washington High School chose 40 students to participate in a new program, Project WALK, which was designed to use graduation coaches to improve at-risk students’ performance. The program’s six graduation coaches formed relationships with at-risk students, monitored student progress, and consistently communicated with parents, teachers, and school administrators about the at-risk students. The researcher, an administrator at the school, gathered quantitative data to measure the effects of the intervention and qualitative data to measure the perceptions of the students who participated. The quantitative data collected for this study enabled the researcher to assess whether the graduation coach had an effect on each student’s attendance, discipline, and number of credits earned during the time of the intervention compared to other years the student was in high school. The researcher considered secondary data in order to compare students’ performances before and after the intervention and thus to test for a correlation between a student’s being paired with a graduation coach and student outcomes such as attendance, discipline, and number of credits earned. In addition to quantitative methods, the use of qualitative methods enabled the researcher to describe and analyze student perceptions of their experiences. Little is known about the perceived experiences of individual students who are considered to be at risk of dropping out of high school. Because qualitative data on this subject have been lacking, the qualitative component of the present study could lend greater insight into the iii effectiveness of interventions in students’ lives. This study looked at 30 males, 10 females, 20 general education students, and 20 special education students. The results of this study indicated that the graduation coaches were beneficial in preventing dropouts, which suggests that the strategy of using graduation coaches is a promising one for serving at-risk students. These findings inform the work of educational specialists, practitioners, and school systems personnel who design interventions to help reduce the dropout rates in schools.

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