• High School Graduation in Context: A Multilevel Examination of the Factors Related to On-Time Graduation for Students Who Persist Through Four Years of High School

      Uretsky, Mathew Cory; Harrington, Donna; Woolley, Michael E.; 0000-0002-4765-6889 (2016)
      Background: Despite recent national data describing reductions in dropout and increasing graduation rates, the number of students who persist through four years of high school without earning a diploma has remained steady. Although reduced dropout is a promising trend, persisting but not graduating may not be meaningfully different from dropout in terms of life outcomes. This dissertation examined this population of peristers, with the goal of informing policy, programming, and practice. Method: The dissertation sample, drawn from administrative data, included 4,190 first-time freshmen enrolled in 40 Baltimore City Public High Schools during the 2010-2011 school year (SY). Students enrolled for less than 90 days in SY 2010-2011 or that dis-enrolled from the district and did not re-enroll during SY 2013-2014 were excluded. Multilevel models assessed the relationship between student- and school-level factors with the odds of students earning a high school diploma four years after beginning their first-freshmen year. Independent variables included student-level demographic and academic indicators, school-level concentrations of student characteristics, and staff-reported school climate. Results: Twenty-two percent of students who persisted through four years of high school did not graduate on time. Several student-level factors were related to the odds of on-time graduation, such as below average attendance or not passing an High School Assessment by the end of the first freshmen year. The school environment played an important role in student outcomes, accounting for 25% of the variation in on-time graduation; however, among school-level factors, only staff-reported family involvement was significantly related to the odds of on-time graduation. Conclusion: Findings shed light on an understudied population of students at high risk of not graduating on time. The multilevel examination of student- and school-level factors indicated that on-time graduation for 4-year persisters should be understood as a function of students within their academic environment. The findings presented in this dissertation suggest that the phenomenon of persisting should be considered along with dropout as a critical element of a more informative analysis of high school graduation. Implications for research, policy, and practice are discussed.