Drug Use. The use of drugs and the choice to drop out of school may share the same precursors, which could explain their relationship. Students who make these decisions typically demonstrate less of a commitment to school and family, and are characterized by lower psychological well-being. They experience poorer relationships with parents, stronger ties to their peers, worse grades, low self-esteem, and more negative attitudes about school (Mensch & Kandel, 1988).

Looking at this notion from an event history analysis may allow researchers to understand the characteristics that precede dropout and help them to control them in the future. Dropouts report a higher rate of drug use than their peers who choose to stay in school. Specifically, the use of cigarettes, marijuana, or other drugs at any age increases the likelihood that a student will drop out of school. As students become more frequent drug users and develop networks of friends who are also drug users, they become more likely to develop a lack of interest in academic issues. When they continue to associate with the same peers, they reinforce this belief system and lack of conformity to traditional institutional values. During this process their drug use may be further impairing their cognitive functioning and motivation, having a further negative impact on their commitment to school (Mensch & Kandel, 1988).

Race. Race is a strong determinant of a student’s likelihood to drop out of school. Minority students are more likely to leave school early than other students (Bloom, 2010). They are also more likely to experience contact with the legal system (Hirschfield, 2009). Further, minority students are more likely to be exposed to high-rates of crime and violence, compounding their circumstances, increasing the chances that they will become victims themselves (Black, et al., 1998).

Student Mobility. High levels of student mobility vary among students and schools, with the highest degrees of prevalence being from large predominantly minority districts and students of low SES. It is related to student misbehavior, youth violence, and can negatively impact student academic performance. Overall, transient students achieve on a lower level than their counterparts (Rumberger, 2003). There are many events that can be classified under the school mobility concept. These events include student being placed in special services then returning to his home school, expulsion, or involuntary transfer to another school then returning to the home school or another school attended in the past. (Osher, Morrison, & Bailey, 2003).

Exceptional Student Education Students. Exceptional Student Education (ESE) students complete high school at a lower rate than their counter parts. After school, they also are exposed to a higher possibility of negative adult outcomes (Kortering & Braziel, 2002). Learning Disabled (LD) students are especially susceptible because their intelligence and achievement levels suggest that academic success is not easy for them. Data supports the notion that there is an interrelationship between antisocial behavior, academic failure, and school climate (Kortering & Braziel, p. 187). EBD Emotional & Behavioral Disabilities (EBD) students fit into this category with their data demonstrating a similar trend. Seventy-three percent of EBD students who choose to drop out of school are arrested within three to five years (U.S. Department of Education, 1994; as cited in Osher, Morrison, & Bailey, 2003).

School and teacher influence plays a role in this process. Students who experience social supports that develop incentive and meaning, nurture personal skills, and provide adequate access to resources increase the likelihood that the student reacts positively to events in their lives. When those ties are weak, the student is more vulnerable and more likely to react negatively to chance events. Specifically, these actions include student placement, method of special education delivery, teacher bias, the degree and access to opportunities and resources, student involvement, academic rigor, and vocational options (Rojewski, 1999).

Poor Academic Performance. Student performance on competency exams indicates a relationship between their performance and the decision to drop out of school. These exams tend to have adverse effects on disadvantaged, at-risk students. Further, there is an inter-relationship between a student’s Grade Point Average (GPA), performance on competency exams, and a student’s decision to drop out of school (Griffin & Heidorn, 1996).




Family Characteristics. The family structure can play a significant role in a student’s behavior and attitude towards both school and life. The level of stress experienced by a family can have a significant impact on students in their academic and social lives. Stress impacts a family’s interactions and processes in a way that has a negative effect on its members. Both stressful life events and the impact of parenting stress can create this result. Further, students lacking a stimulating home environment lack parental sensitivity. Students of low SES face the most intense challenges in this context, as they are most likely to face more than one, or all, of these factors (Oxford & Lee, 2011).

Family processes such as structure, coping, and relations differ from family to family and vary based on the structure of each member’s daily life, shared experiences, and the manner in which they deal with problems (Kiser & Black, 2005). Positive family engagement can have a significant positive effect on student achievement (Smink & Reimer, 2005). The relationship between economic status and health is one that should also be noted. Generally, people outside of the low SES category tend to be healthier overall (Tipper, 2010).

Some students who are in foster care face a significantly higher likelihood of participating in high risk behaviors. Particularly, students in this category who have low levels of caretaker support in their foster care setting are much less likely to experience positive outcomes. Researchers in this study controlled for several factors, including; self-competence, placement changes, poor self-regulation, and caregiver support. Interestingly, girls who had high levels of caretaker support had consistently positive outcomes both academically and behaviorally. This illustrates that the students who were removed from negative circumstances and placed in positive ones benefitted from the change. Without facing so many of the risk factors they had experienced in their previous setting, the female foster students were able to thrive (Pears, et al., 2011).

The manner in which children interact with their parents, specifically the manner in which parents respond to a youth’s emotional behavior, has a significant impact on their development of depression. Parents who react positively to a student’s sadness and attempt to support them are more likely to reduce the risk the child will become depressed. In contrast, parents who react negatively towards a student’s sadness or anger increase the likelihood for depression. Parents who react positively towards a child’s positivity reduce likelihood for depression. Parents who react with anger and dysphoria increase the likelihood for depression. Parents who wish to reduce the likelihood of depression as an outcome for their child face challenges in systematically changing their behaviors over time, so they may increase the chances of a positive outcome for their children (Schwartz, et al. 2012). The significance of family characteristics and interaction was further highlighted by Kim-Spoon, et al. (2011) who found that positive parenting is a significant indicator of a child’s ability to self-regulate.

In a study that examined the behavior of parents with their toddlers, Whittaker (2010) found that maternal sensitivity is an indicator of socio-emotional functioning among toddlers. Participants were mother-child groups with the children aged 3 to 23 months. Of the 130 mothers aged 15 to 51 selected to participate, 114 participated in the first visit of the study, and 95 participated in the follow-up visit scheduled six months later. Participants were mostly minority women who had never been married. Measures of risk for a negative outcome in this study included parenting stress, parental depression, maternal sensitivity, and inadequacy of family resources. These factors were contributors to a mother’s level of sensitivity to her child. Students benefit from high expectation in their families. High expectations from family members are related to a student’s high hopes for themselves. Students who have high hopes for themselves are five times as likely to have mothers that have high expectations of them. Female students who benefit from high expectations along with stricter rules regarding school from their mothers perceive that their teachers are satisfied with their performance. Female students setting high expectations for themselves are more likely to graduate than their counterparts (Ensminger & Slusarcick, 1992).




Profile of Dropout Prevention Students. Dropout prevention students are characterized by their backgrounds and circumstances, the conditions they experience, and the risk indicators they demonstrate that increase the likelihood they will drop out of school. These factors include; course failure, grade retention, low test scores, school location, spending per pupil, student body composition, race, socioeconomic status, student mobility, resiliency, motivation, family characteristics, early adult responsibilities (Tyler & Lofstrom, 2009), aggressive behavior, and maternal education level (Ensminger, M. & Slusarcick, A., 1992) . Students who become victims of these variables become handicapped as adults without high school diplomas. The act of dropping out of school may be just another event in a chain of events that are driven by these variables. Some research views the decision to drop out of school as a long-term process that encapsulates these issues and culminates with the act of dropping out (Finn, 1989).

In a study of students surveyed on their participation of high risk behaviors about fifteen percent of students self-identify as very high-risk, 15 percent as high-risk, 35 percent as medium- risk, 20 percent as low-risk, and 15 percent as no-risk. Some of their characteristics of the very high-risk category include having been arrested at least once, having access to guns, using alcohol, using illegal drugs, being sexually active, being depressed, and attempting suicide. Students in the high-risk category share characteristics such as alcohol use, marijuana use, behind in school, truant, and depressed. Students in the medium risk category, the largest risk category, are involved in at least two among these risk behaviors: being behind in school, truancy, alcohol use, marijuana use, and sexual activity. Low-risk and no-risk youth are less likely to drop out because of their behaviors which could include cutting a class or taking a drink of alcohol. Although these students are categorized as low-risk and no-risk, they are surrounded by the students who are taking part in negative behaviors and face the possibility of being victimized by them (Dryfoos, 1996).

Low Socioeconomic Status. This element of a DOP student’s experience, a primary factor in the current study and one of the strongest indicators of DOP status will be analyzed first. While neighborhood characteristics influence educational attainment among young people, institutional factors also play a role. School quality is often higher in wealthier neighborhoods. The higher the quality of the neighborhood, as measured by wealth or socioeconomic status, the less likely young people are to drop out of high school and the more likely they are to attain a college degree (Santiago, et al., 2011). According to Vartarian & Gleason (2002), students in these neighborhoods benefit from more positive adult role models, peers with whom goals and experiences can be shared, and high quality local institutions. Likewise, as neighborhood conditions improve, they have a primary impact on high school dropout rates Living in socially- isolated neighborhoods has a negative impact on educational attainment, due to the lack of influence by positive adult role models. Specifically, young people are likely to model what those around them are doing. Socially-isolated neighborhoods suffer from the lack of positive adult role models to impede the process of educational attainment. The most negative effects of living in socially-isolated neighborhoods are the most severe among young people who do not have the family support, or positive adult presence, to support them as they attempt to overcome the challenges of such a setting (Vartanian & Gleason, 2002). Urban area students are impacted by the challenges of their communities where there are high concentrations of poverty. Concentrations of depression are linked to these communities. Reasons for this link vary, and can range from higher level of stressors in the community, experiencing traumatic events to having low-levels of social support and cohesion. Regardless of covariates, SES of the community remained a statistically significant indicator. Rural areas also suffer from many of these challenges (Galea, et al., 2007).

There is a statistically significant relationship between a student’s decision to drop out of school and contact with the legal system. Students who are arrested in ninth or tenth grade are six times as likely to make the decision to drop out of school as their counterparts (Hirschfield, 2009). Students who come from a background of low socioeconomic status (SES) feel the after effects of a community that does not have a good relationship with school systems or job markets (Ensminger & Slusarcick, 1992). They are more likely than other students to drop out of school (Bloom, 2010). The challenges that low SES students face may stem from events that occurred early in their lives. Black, et al. (2000) examined the Bayley Scales of Infant Development scores of infants from low-incomes families to find that these infants developed at a lower rate than children from the normative sample. The study found that these students are less likely to explore objects in their environment, engage in tasks or with others, and have lower levels of enthusiasm, initiation, persistence, and emotional/dispositional quality.

Students who progress through their early lives in a state of low SES are impacted by the risks of their circumstances and negatively affected in the area of mental health. These circumstances include neighborhood disadvantage and poverty-related stressors. They can result in delinquency, attention problems, aggression, somatic complaints, and anxiety/depression (Santiago, et al., 2011). They deal with daily challenges from their families, neighborhood, and school — all of whom are impacted and interconnected by the same challenges. As a result, the SES students experience emotional, cognitive, behavioral, spiritual, and physiological reactions that occur during and after traumatic events. The level of risk for students of low SES to develop mental health disorders and impairment are higher than the risk levels for the general population (Kiser, L., 2006).

Further, students in these circumstances are more likely to experience traumatic events that cause stress-related issues. In a meta-analysis of 25 potential risk factors for PTSD (post- traumatic stress disorder) Trickey, et al. (2011) found that both the traumatic and post- events factors experienced by the child play a major role in whether a child develops PTSD after the event. The criteria for the study considered children from 6 to18 years of age from 64 studies between 1980 and 2009. Variables examined included age, race, gender, IQ, SES, pre and post- trauma life events, bereavement, and severity. The results illustrated that children who experience low social support, social withdrawal, poor family functioning, and distractions have a higher likelihood for PTSD. It should be noted that a strong factor in the successful treatment of PTSD is early screening and prompt treatment.

Improving the quality of education provided to students living in poverty would help to counter some of the adverse circumstances they experience on a daily basis. However, it appears that the opposite occurs in the United States. Students from high poverty districts are more likely to go to schools that have inadequate resources and poorly trained teachers. As a result these students leave school without the skills needed to earn a living that would pull them out of the circumstances in which they grew up, thereby feeding the pattern of inequality of education, inequality of educational attainment, and inequality of labor marker earnings (Murnane, 2007).



The purpose of this study is to examine the availability of CTE programs in the United States based on poverty concentration in the community, and the participation in them by DOP students. This literature review will provide an overview of the issues and topics pertinent to the purpose of this study.

The review of the literature will provide information surrounding the factors that impact this study; DOP students, CTE Programs, and poverty. First, the literature on DOP students will be presented. This overview will frame the nature of the issues that impact DOP students. It will begin with the definition of the term at-risk, to provide perspective for how the use of the concept has developed over time. Then, characteristics and circumstances of DOP students will be presented to contextualize their life experiences. Finally, an analysis of the poverty literature will be conducted, viewed through the lens of the impact SES has on DOP students.

Then, the policies and programs that have been attempted to alleviate the dropout problem will be presented. Each attempt produced some level of success. They positively impacted the lives of students to some extent and helped some DOP students to complete school, but none surfaced as a panacea to resolve the DOP problem. Productive elements of each program materialized as strategies which can be used in other settings to improve instruction and student retention. Their contribution to the success of DOP students will be reviewed to ensure a balanced review of available programs.

Last, this chapter will examine CTE programs to understand the context through which they can contribute to DOP efforts. A history of CTE programs will explain how they have developed over time. An analysis of these programs and their impact on DOP students will be conducted. The concept of CTE programs will be explored. Benefits of enriching educational programs will be examined. The reported experiences of both teacher and students will be evaluated to determine the factors that influence success by analyzing the impact of each study’s variables. Student performance in the CTE setting will be analyzed to determine the factors that may influence academic growth. The potential for CTE programs as an enriching educational program to combat the dropout problem will be explored through an analysis of the CTE strategies that improve at-risk student performance. The chapter will end by providing the conceptual framework of the study, then with a summary of the content.

Dropout Prevention Students

Students who are at-risk of dropping out of school are referred to as dropout prevention students. The term “at-risk” was first used by The National Commission on Excellence in Education to describe an economically and socially endangered society in the United States. Its continued use in subsequent reports from the Council of Chief State School Officers, Education Commission of the States, and the National Coalition for Advocates of Students used the term to describe students by their high probability of school failure (Placier, 1993).

The National Impact of Dropping Out. Those students who drop out of school have financial and social impact on society. The United States would benefit from $45 billion more in tax revenues and reduced spending in healthcare, crime, and welfare if the number of high school dropouts among 20year-olds were cut in half (Broom, 2010). Overall, dropouts cost the U.S. $240 billion in lost wages and taxes. Dropouts face a higher risk for substance addiction, low socioeconomic status, welfare, and imprisonment (Doran, 2005). In some states high school dropouts make up 60% of the prison population (Young, 2008).

Chapman, Laird, & Kewal-Ramani (2010) contend that the decision to drop out of high school is related to a multitude of negative outcomes, including; an average annual salary of $23,000 – a figure $19,000 below the average salary of a high school graduate. Further, a lower percentage of adults who dropped out are in the labor force and dropouts are more likely to suffer from poor health. On average, the individual dropout costs an additional $240,000 to taxpayers over their lifetimes as a result of higher reliance on Medicare/Medicaid, higher rates of criminal activity, higher reliance on welfare, and lower overall tax contributions.