Statement of the Problem 

A student drops out of school every nine seconds. Policymakers have sought to remedy this problem through laws, and educators have sought remedy through changes in professional practice. Yet, the dropout issue remains (Christie & Yell, 2008). Before a student drops out of school, indicators reveal their at-risk status through both characteristics and behaviors. One of the most telling indicators of their likelihood to dropout is their socioeconomic status (SES). Students from families in the low SES category drop out at much higher rates than students in other socioeconomic groups. In 2000, 10% of low income students dropped out of high school. That is double the amount of middle income students, and six times as many high income students (Englund, et al., 2008).

There is no panacea to alleviate the dropout issue. However, access to and participation in enrichment programs can contribute to schools’ efforts to prevent these students from dropping out of school (Perry & Wallace, 2012). This study seeks to examine the availability of one of those enrichment programs, career and technical education (CTE) programs, and the participation in them by dropout prevention (DOP) students.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this study is to examine the availability of CTE programs in the United States and the participation in them by dropout prevention (DOP) students, based on poverty concentration within their communities. The national discussion of the dropout epidemic has been heavily publicized, especially through the discussion of graduation rates (Thornburgh, 2006). On average, about 3/4 of students will graduate from high school (Bracey, 2006; Tyler & Lofstrom, 2009).

Today about 500,000 students drop out of school annually (Dynarski, et al., 2008). Most of these students come from rural and urban areas (Stanley & Plucker, 2008). Concerns about education have been expressed by citizens with the belief that the world is rapidly changing, and America’s students need to be well educated to keep up. The U.S. is presently in a social and technological revolution that will drastically change what it means to teach and learn. The critical point of change is knowledge, which is quickly becoming America’s true capital base as a wealth producing source. Without the knowledge that education produces students will be left behind, putting DOP students even more at risk (Cassel, 2003)

Many programs have been implemented to address the clear need to improve these statistics. Some of these programs have produced positive results and have improved graduation rates among the groups which they served. Dodd & Bowen (2011) found that after-school programs can improve family involvement at home. Franklin (2007) found students who receive their alternative schooling in an environment that emphasizes academics earn significantly more credits, enter college at higher rates, and have better attendance. Southwick et al., (2005) stated that resilience is enhanced through learning when a mentee imitates his or her more resilient mentor. Fairbanks et al., (2007) found that tiered instruction programs in the second grade were more effective when targeted efficiently, more individualized, and function based. The National High School Center (2010) states that progress monitoring yields data to assess students’ learning and academic performance and to determine whether a specific intervention is effective for a particular student. Reynolds et al., (2011) found that participation in an early childhood program such as the Child-Parent Center Education Program serves as a preventative resource for pre-school age children with multiple risk factors. As seen here, educational policy and professional practice have attempted an all of the above approach, with some success. Unfortunately, there is no panacea, and a graduation rate gap still exists (Perry & Wallace, 2012).