Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ded)


Educational Leadership

Advisor 1

James R. Crawford, Committee Chair

First Committee Member

Gene Hall

Second Committee Member

Lori Olafson

Third Committee Member

Michael S. Robison

Number of Pages



The practice of retaining students in grade has been studied, researched, discussed, criticized and yet it continues. Dropping out of school prior to graduation has been studied, researched, discussed, written about and continues to be practiced by our youth. Policymakers are often provided quantitative data to consider as they explore, evaluate, and deliberate issues such as the practice of retention-in-grade to assure adherence to standards, or in response to the social, political, and educational problems created by youth who have dropped out from school.

Current studies and research into retention and dropping out fail to include the issues from the perspective of the individual; from the standpoint of the dropout. That failure is not a methodological one; the voices of the dropout have not yet been heard. This qualitative study gives voice to the population of at-risk youth. It allows youth who have been struggled and subsequently dropped out of school to tell their story. Their voice becomes a powerful force in the process of educational reform. By considering the needs of the individual, education moves toward doing things with them rather than to them.

This mixed methods multiple case study involved collection and analysis of questionnaire data, analysis of demographic information, conducting and analyzing interviews. Participants were youth ages eighteen to twenty-eight years old who chose to return to complete high school graduation requirements through an adult education program.

The findings indicate that the most significant issue in their decision to drop out involved the lack of a meaningful with one or more of their teachers. Retained in grade was an explored characteristic but was not a characteristic that all study participants experienced in their school careers. The issue of retention is not as significant as their desire to have a relationship with significant adult in school who demonstrates care and concern.

Their story compels policy-makers, decision-makers, and educators to consider more than standards, curriculum, and regulations. They must consider the individual.


At-risk; Dropouts; Grade retention; Re-engaged; Student-teacher relationships; Youth



File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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