Local governments can invest in this strategy using State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

  • This strategy can help address educational disparities and promote healthy childhood environments. The U.S. Department of Treasury has indicated that strategies that help achieve these outcomes are eligible for the use of Fiscal Recovery Funds.
  • Investments in this strategy are SLFRF-eligible as long as they are made in qualified census tracts or are designed to assist populations or communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

Program overview

  • Supporting school completion: Dropout prevention programs include a range of strategies that support school completion among K-12 students. Typically, these interventions aim to mitigate risk factors (e.g., absenteeism) and strengthen protective factors (e.g., academic achievement) associated with dropping out of school. There is strong evidence that these programs increase high school completion rates.

  • Creating a supportive learning environment: At a foundational level, schools can reduce students’ risk of dropping out by creating a more supportive learning environment. This may include strategies to improve safety and school culture (e.g., teaching conflict resolution), increase family engagement, and promote collaboration with community-based organizations. In particular, partnerships with public agencies and community-based organizations, like social service agencies, libraries, and health clinics, can enable a school to better meet students' holistic needs.

  • Focusing on instruction: As academic performance and student engagement are key factors in determining a student’s likelihood of school completion, strategies that promote effective instruction are a central part of an effective dropout prevention program. Common approaches schools may take include offering professional development for educators (e.g., on delivering trauma-informed instruction), increasing individualized and active learning opportunities, and offering career-oriented educational programming.

  • Offering targeted supports: For students at higher risk of dropping out, schools and their community partners can offer more targeted interventions to promote student success. Tutoring, mentoring, and out-of-school programs are among the most common approaches to increasing students’ likelihood of school completion. School districts may also offer alternative schooling options, which provide students with multiple pathways to meeting the requirements for a high school diploma. Specialized programs for certain student groups may also offer more targeted and/or intensive supports (e.g., health care and child care for pregnant and parenting teens).

Cost per Participant
Not available

Multiple studies with rigorous designs demonstrate that dropout prevention programs are a well-established strategy for increasing high school completion.

  • Use data to understand the problem: When feasible, school districts should dedicate staff time to regularly analyze student data for factors associated with dropping out, such as absences, grade retention, behavioral infractions, and low academic achievement. These data can enable a school district to both assess the scope of the dropout problem and determine the relative need for individual versus systemic changes. The same data can also form the basis of an “early warning system” to identify and support specific students who are at risk of dropping out.

  • Design a multicomponent set of supports: Multiple factors influence the likelihood that students will drop out of school. As such, schools should develop dropout prevention programs that target the range of individual, school, and community factors that support school success. Offering tiered supports based on the level of risk students face can enable dropout prevention programs to better meet students needs and make more efficient use of resources.

  • Offer targeted programs for groups at higher-risk: Targeted dropout prevention programming may be appropriate for groups of students with unique needs. For example, school districts may offer a specialized program for teenage mothers, who often require support services, like childcare and reproductive healthcare, that go beyond those offered by traditional dropout prevention programs. By creating specialized programs, school districts can provide more comprehensive services and build staff familiarity with the needs of specific subgroups.

  • Re-engage out-of-school youth: Even after students have dropped out, schools can attempt to re-engage out-of-school youth and offer supportive pathways to secondary school completion. Typically, this involves connecting youth to alternative education programs. As out-of-school youth are disconnected from the formal education system, sustained outreach efforts may be required to identify and reach them.

  • Addressing early risk factors: The quality of a child’s early learning experiences can impact the likelihood that they complete high school. As such, schools - and communities more broadly - can reduce their dropout rate in the long-run by investing in strategies that promote early brain development, access to quality early childhood education programs, and early literacy development.