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.


Deficiencies in Evidence

CTE programs facilitate positive outcomes for students, including DOP students (Advisory Committee, 2004). Participation in CTE programs can increase school attendance and improve labor market outcomes after graduation, whether or not the student attends post- secondary education. Further, these programs deliver a better financial return than second chance programs aimed at high school dropouts – adding value to the notion of prevention (Bishop & Mane, 2003). When targeted specifically to decrease the risk of dropout, CTE programs can also be successful and can decrease the risk of dropout (Bishop & Mane, 2003; Plank, DeLuca, & Estacion, 2008). However, the effectiveness of a program can vary depending on its design, leveL of continual monitoring, available technical assistance, and the school’s ability to discontinue ineffective programs. These factors can greatly impact the students who participate in the programs (Stern, et al., 1989).

The way in which CTE programs connect to students varies based on individual circumstances, many of which have been evaluated to better understand their impact. Some of these factors include the role of CTE programs in transitioning students to postsecondary education (Dare, 2006), the experiences of African American students in CTE programs (Fletcher, & Cox, 2012), the impact disability awareness can have on CTE instruction (Hall, 2007), and an examination of an oral reading fluency on CTE students (Mellard, Woods, & Desa, 2012).

Although the significance of these studies should not be understated, a problem remains. “CTE reform efforts are seriously under-researched. School and district personnel are forced to make major programmatic decisions in the absence of replicating studies or, often, any process or outcome studies to inform their thinking” (Castellano, Stringfield & Stone, 2003). This study seeks to take a broader approach to the themes that impact DOP students in CTE programs by examining the topic of access to and participation in CTE programs by DOP students in the United States based on poverty concentration. This study seeks to examine those variables in a way that helps to create increased awareness.

Research Questions

The research in this study focused on understanding the issue of access to and participation in enriching education programs by DOP students in the United States based on poverty concentration The following four questions were designed to explore DOP students’ ability to access and participate in CTE programs in communities according to SES:


  • Is there a statistically-significant relationship between the availability of career and technical high schools in the United States and poverty concentration?
  • Is there a statistically-significant relationship between the participation in career and technical high schools in the United States by DOP students and poverty concentration?
  • Is there a statistically-significant relationship between the availability of career and technical education courses at regular high schools in the United States and poverty concentration?
  • Is there a statistically-significant relationship between the level of participation in career and technical education courses at regular high schools in the United States based on poverty concentration?

Significance of the Study

In order to promote a better understanding of the factors impacting the successes and failures of DOP students, the author examined the access to and participation in CTE programs by DOP students based on poverty concentration using a quantitative approach. Results of examining this research can contribute to a larger body of research on the contributions of enriching educational programs for DOP students, using the lessons learned here for the benefit of students across socio-economic levels to improve access and participation. Researchers can use the results of this study to stimulate their own research, using the NCES survey Dropout Prevention Services and Programs to explore issues impact DOP students by isolating different variables to understand the impact that other sources can have on the issue. Federal, State, and Local school administrators can use this research to shape policies and programs that address these issues. Further discussion of these implications will be conducted in chapter five.