05 SES 08, Preventing Early School Leaving and Affirmative Pedagogies
Improving the current educational system to reduce dropout rates is a key goal for policymakers, researchers and educators. A number of studies have identified predictors of dropping out from school, and efforts to reduce dropout over recent decades have been reviewed (Rumberger, 2011). Academic performance, measured by grades at the lower secondary level, has emerged as one of the strongest predictors for upper secondary dropout (Alexander et al., 2001; Blondal & Adalbjarnardottir, 2009; Markussen et al., 2011). Several studies have explored how school engagement is linked to different educational outcomes, not least to dropout (Finn, 1989; Newman et al. 1992; Rumberger, 2011). School engagement is considered malleable. This complex and multidimensional concept, involves affective, cognitive and behavioural aspects that are often overlapping or compatible with elements explored in research on motivation (Fredricks et al., 2004). The different aspects of engagement can, to varying degrees, be identified in different educational trajectories (Janosz, 2008; Archambault et al., 2009; Blondal & Adalbjarnardottir, 2012). Still, these studies suggest that there is considerable heterogeneity in the psychosocial and cognitive life course characteristics leading to dropout. This indicates that efforts to prevent dropout need to be tailored to pupils’ various needs.
As in several other countries, the Norwegian Government has launched a number of initiatives that aim to increase successful completion in upper secondary education. One mandatory, nationwide project is called New Possibilities (Ny GIV), and is led and disseminated by the Ministry of Education and Research. The ministry has defined the target group as the 10 percent “poorest achievers” after the first term in 10th grade (the last year of compulsory school), based on grades. Within these guidelines, the selection of pupils is also based on local discretion. In order to improve basic skills, these targeted pupils receive intensive training in reading, writing and numeracy in the second term of 10th grade. To meet the need for differentiation, the schools are given great freedom in the organization and implementation of the measures. The only requirement is that teachers must attend at least one seminar in advance. National centres for reading, writing and mathematics education have been given the task of developing appropriate training for teachers in adequate educational methods and tools, focusing on basic skills, mastery and motivation.
The flexibility of New Possibilities complicates the identification of the most active and positive elements of the initiative. On the other hand, it is of interest to see how a large-scale, flexible intervention is received, and whether it has the potential to support pupils considered at risk. Thus, this study evaluates the following research questions:
- How was New possibilities implemented?
- How was the initiative received by pupils and teachers?
- Did New Possibilities influence academic learning? - If so, did initial grades, gender or SES affect the initiative’s influence?
Alexander, K.L., Entwisle, D.R., & Kabbani, N.S. (2001). The dropout process in life course perspective. Early risk factors at home and school. Teachers College Record, 103(5), 760-822. Allison P.D. (2009): Fixed effects regression models. Los Angeles: SAGE. Archambault, I., Janosz, M., Fallu, J.-S., & Pagani, L. S. (2009). Student engagement and its relationship with early high school dropout. Journal of Adolescence, 32, 651-670. Blondal, K. S., & Adalbjarnardottir, S. (2012). Student disengagement in relation to expected and unexpected educational pathways. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 56(1), 85-100. Blondal, K.S.,& Adalbjarnardottir, S. (2009). Parenting practices and school dropout: A longitudinal study. Adolescence, 44, 729–749. Finn, J. D. (1989). Withdrawing from school. Review of Educational Research, 59, 117-142. Fredricks, J. A., Blumenfeld, P. C. & Paris, A. H. (2004) School Engagement: Potential of the concept, state of the evidence. Review of Educational Research, 74 (1), 59-109. Janosz, M., Archambault, I., Morizot, J., & Pagani, L.S. (2008). School engagement trajectories and their differential predictive relations to dropout. Journal of Social Issues, 64(1), 21-40. Markussen, E., Frøseth, M.W. & Sandberg, N. (2011). Reaching for the unreachable: Identifying factors predicting early school leaving and non-completion in Norwegian upper secondary education. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 225-253. Newmann, F. Wehlage, G.G. Lamborn, S.D. (1992). The significance and sources of student engagement. In F. Newman, (Ed). Student engagement and achievement in American secondary schools (pp. 62-91). New York: Teachers College Press. Rumberger, R. W. (2011). Dropping out: Why students drop out of high school and what can be done about it. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Ukoumunne, O. C., M. C. Gulliford, et al. (1999). Methods for evaluating area-wide and organisation-based interventions in health and health care: A systematic review. Health Technology Assessment 3(5): iii-92.
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