Shannon Dick


An alarmingly number of students drop out of high school every day; however, the need for a high school diploma has become increasingly more important for the U.S. to remain globally competitive. Minority students and students living in poverty are disproportionally affected by this issue dropping out at significantly higher rates. Throughout the years, a number of reform efforts have been targeted at the federal, state, and local levels to address this issue. Some of these efforts have shown promising results. In an Education Week report (Diplomas Count, 2010), 21 urban school districts were identified as districts that are defying expectations based on factors such as district size and poverty level. These districts graduate students at significantly higher rates than districts with similar characteristics. The purpose of this study was to identify key strategies for increasing high school graduation rates. This study examined the practices in five school districts in California that exceeded expected graduation rates. A qualitative approach that included interviewing leaders from each of the districts was utilized to understand the strategies employed. A review and synthesis of the research literature provided the constructs for the conceptual framework used to develop the research and interview questions. Content analysis was performed to identify primary themes across the interviews. The data collected and analyzed revealed 19 primary themes or strategies: (a) close supervision, (b) alternative pathways, (c) fostering a sense of belonging, (d) safety prevention programs, (e) curriculum aligned K-12, (f) using technology to improve results, (g) early identification and support of at-risk students, (h) shared accountability, (i) focus on individual student progress, (j) rigorous curriculum, (k) leadership development, (l) collaboration and sharing of best practices, (m) common assessments, (n) data-driven instruction, (o) focused collaboration, (p) professional learning communities, (q) connecting parents to school, (r) strong collaboration between school and community, and (s) transparency. Specific examples of how these strategies are being implemented to improve graduation rates are provided. Implications for education leaders, community partners, parents, and policymakers are also discussed.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dissertations (EdD) -- Organizational leadership; High school dropouts -- California; Minority high school students -- California; Dropouts -- Prevention

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Hyatt, Laura;