Term of Award

Fall 2006

Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Curriculum Studies (Ed.D.)

Document Type and Release Option

Dissertation (open access)

Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Department of Curriculum, Foundations, and Reading

Committee Chair

William M. Reynolds

Committee Member 1

Ming Fang He

Committee Member 2

Michael McKenna

Committee Member 3

Patrick Novotny

Committee Member 3 Email



The economic value of an education is thoroughly documented in the United States Census Bureau report, The big payoff: Educational attainment and synthetic estimates of work-life earnings (2002). The report clearly shows that earnings increase with educational level. Yet, students continue to leave school before graduating. In October of 1996, 11.1% of persons aged 16 to 24 years were dropouts. They wree not enrolled in a high school program and had not completed high school. Nearly a half million of them left high school between October 1995 and 1996 (U.S. Census Bureau, 1997). This inquiry examined the lives of three female high school dropouts in the rural South to search for common threads among their lives and educational experiences as students in the public schools. The three participants are Caucasian, and they range in age from 25 to 38 years old. Auto/biographical narrative inquiry provides the theoretical framework for this study. The methodology includes several semi-structured interviews with each participant to allow them to tell about their personal experiences in school and since leaving school. This study is significant because the findings support the research which shows that it is extremely difficult to pinpoint one reason that students drop out of high school. The data gathered from the three participants in this study reveal eight very strong findings: 1) non-normative school transitions during their adolescent years; 2) lack of involvement in the social life of the school; 3) emotions at school or how they felt at school; 4) lack of family involvement in school; 5) location of the high school; 6) demographics of the high school; 7) lack of teacher relationships; 8) lack of school personnel involvement with dropouts. A review of the literature found that current research is moving away developing a profile of the dropout by only considering the characteristics that predict dropout behavior. The research is moving toward including findings about school-level factors that contribute to or cause drop out dehavior.

Research Data and Supplementary Material