Personalization and persistence: The relationship of selected student and school variables to dropout rates in Mississippi public high schools
The purpose of this study was to extend the scope of prior research beyond the investigation of the relationship between student-related variables and dropout rate to include two categories of school-related variables that may impact the level of personalization, and consequently the dropout rate, in Mississippi high schools. The ultimate goal of this study was to identify school-related organizational and process variables related to dropout rate that might guide reform efforts of administrators as they seek to meet new standards for accountability being implemented by the Mississippi Department of Education and the Mississippi legislature. The subjects of this study included 120 diploma-granting Mississippi high schools operating during the 1999-2000 school year. Most of these schools contained a minimum of grades nine and above and all contained grades 11 and 12. Not included were private schools, alternative school programs for at-risk students, schools maintained specifically for special-needs students, nor home-schooling populations. The principal of each school responded to a survey that provided data with respect to student-related variables (SES, percent minority, and student achievement), school-related organizational variables (school size and grade level structure) and school-related process variables (implementation of flexible scheduling, teacher-advisory programs, and dropout prevention programs). Multiple correlation was used to test for a significant relationship between dropout rate and each of the three groups of variables (student-related, school-related organizational, and school-related process). Multiple regression techniques were used to test for a significant relationship between dropout rate and the composite of all independent variables as well as with each independent variable considered separately. A statistically significant correlation was found between dropout rate and the student-related variables (SES, percent minority, and achievement) as well as between dropout rate and the student-related organizational variables (school size and grade level structure). There was not a significant correlation between dropout rate and the student-related process variables. Multiple linear regression revealed a statistically significant relationship between dropout rate and the composite of all independent variables. Considered separately, however, the only statistically significant relationship for this sample of schools was between dropout rate and grade level structure.