Cognitive, Academic and Personality Characteristics of Early School Leavers and Persisters
By Marilyn Macdonald

SSTA Research Centre Report #92-03: 36 pages, $11.

Introduction The purpose of this study was to determine selected cognitive, academic and personality variable which discriminate between Early School Leavers and Persisters of equal intellectual ability.

Seventy-nine Grade 11 Persisters were tested in their highschool, and forty Leavers were matched with forty Persisters on sex and their composite (VR & NA) Differential Aptitude Score.

It was found that Persisters had significantly higher grade point averages and higher academic self-concepts than the Leavers. The Leavers' scores indicated a significantly higher degree of alienation from school.

Purpose of the Study
Literature Summary
Statistical Analyses
Discussion of the Findings

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In a society in which education is highly valued as the key to one's personal advancement and society's total growth, it is a curious and sad paradox to note that approximately one-third of those students (American) who start first grade will drop out before reaching eleventh grade (Hamacheck, 1977). Canadian studies have yielded similar rates. A 1983 Saskatchewan study (Cipwynk, Pawlovich & Randhawa) found an overall cumulative dropout rate of 31.33%. Thus, it can be expected that 31 out of a hundred Saskatchewan students will leave school before Grade 12 graduation. The need to improve student retention rates is apparent. How, then, do we identify those students who are potential school leavers and adjust the compulsory school system to make it more effective in meeting their needs?

Early school leaving constitutes an individual and social problem. Dropouts prematurely curtail their education, perhaps the most important mechanism for achieving success in the labor market. Because of their limited training, they experience higher unemployment rates and lower earnings than other workers (Borus, Crowley, Rumberger, Santos & Shapiro, 1980). They often become a social burden as well requiring public assistance and engaging in crime (Ehrilick, 1975; Levin, 1972). Those with little formal education and little work experience are usually among the last hired as employment opportunities arise.

Students leave, not because of a capricious impulse or a sudden whim, but because of more or less continuous exposure to failure experiences at school. There is continued and growing concern for the significant number of young people who choose to leave school before graduation despite the rather hapless prospects that await them.

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The Purpose of the Study

This study attempted to determine whether specific cognitive, academic and personality characteristics distinguish Leavers and Persisters of the same level of academic ability and scholastic aptitude. In view of the variety of factors that are involved in the phenomenon of early school leaving, this study was designed to address a broad range of these characteristics: the level of cognitive reasoning ability, academic self-concept, degree of alienation (from school), and degree of rational beliefs (or thinking). It was anticipated that the collected data and recommendations would enable educators in this particular school to initiate preventative measures to accommodate the potential early school leaver and hopefully, reduce dropout rates.

If significant differences between the Persisters and Leavers were found, the preventative measures may include interventions related to remedial or tutorial support in reading, study and thinking skills as well as modified or more diversified programming, i.e. work experience, evening classes, etc. Personality differences may be dealt with in other ways. Individual, peer, and/or group counselling as well as teacher/student training in self-concept and social skills development may be beneficial ways to address these issues.

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Literature Summary

The literature review reveals a variety of factors that contribute to the early school leaving phenomenon. Under-achievement, poor reading ability, low academic performance, poor self-concept/academic self-concept, and alienation from school are characteristic of the dropout. Similarly, the Leaver's behavioral and personality maladjustment manifests itself in other ways, i.e. apathy, acting-out, hostility, disinterest in or dislike of school-related activities and personnel (classes or teachers), tardiness, absenteeism, incompleted assignments and disciplinary problems. The fact that only 25-50% of the variance in achievement is accounted for by intellectual ability highlights the importance of the intervening personality and motivational aspects of the Leavers' characteristics. This is particularly true of the intellectually capable Leaver.

Academic self-concept appears to be one of the moderating variables between average (or better) ability and achievement. Unlike Leavers, Persisters feel `better' about themselves as students and consequently, perform better academically. Leavers, with their low self-concepts, are more alienated from school and less inclined to be involved with school at any level, i.e. achievement and school performance as well as school-sponsored activities.

Inappropriate behavior choices, i.e. truancy, hostility, acting-out, etc. may be associated with irrational thought patterns. Avoiding responsibilities or allowing one's past history--which, in the case of the Leavers, involves poor self-concept and low achievement--to strongly affect one's present life indefinitely, are `irrational' behaviors associated with Leavers.

The cyclical effect of low achievement contributing to poor academic self-concept--which may, in turn, precipitate or enhance feelings of alienation and/or irrational beliefs or behaviors culminates in the act of leaving school. Whatever the eventual resolution of the cycle, it is clear that all of the aspects related to Leavers are involved in various ways that are reflected in the multidimensionality of the "leaving" process.

Concerns related to the early school Leaver are based on evidence that serious economic, social and personal consequences will result, i.e. unemployment, lower lifetime earnings, and limited future prospects. Early identification of the potential school Leaver becomes imperative in order to initiate preventative measures which will accommodate for those high-risk students. Due to the interrelatedness of cognitive, academic and personal

Leaver characteristics coupled with the school environment, it is apparent that the problem of early school leaving is complex and cannot be treated with simple solutions.

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For purposes of statistical analysis, the null research hypothesis was utilized to test for differences between Leavers and Persisters.

The following research hypotheses were tested in the present study:

(1) Hypothesis One

Leavers and Persisters will not differ significantly with respect to their level of cognitive reasoning ability.

Sub-hypothesis 1. Male Leavers and male Persisters will not differ significantly with respect to their level of cognitive reasoning ability.

Sub-hypothesis 2. Female Leavers and female Persisters will not differ significantly with respect to their level of cognitive reasoning ability.

Sub-hypothesis 3. Male Leavers and female Leavers will not differ significantly with respect to their level of cognitive reasoning ability.

(2) Hypothesis Two

Leavers and Persisters will not differ significantly with respect to their compulsory core subjects grade point average (GPA:Core) and their overall subjects' (GPA:All) grade point averages.

Sub-hypothesis 1. Male Leavers and male Persisters will not differ significantly with respect to their compulsory core subjects' grade point averages (GPA:Core) and their overall (GPA:All) grade point averages.

Sub-hypothesis 2. Female Leavers and Persisters will not differ significantly with respect to their compulsory core subjects' grade point averages (GPA:Core) and their overall (GPA:All) grade point averages.

Sub-hypothesis 3. Male and female Leavers will not differ significantly with respect to their compulsory core subjects' grade point averages (GPA:Core) and their overall (GPA:All) grade point averages.

(3) Hypothesis Three

Leavers and Persisters will not differ significantly with respect to their reading ability (CTBS:Raw and CTBS:Percentile scores).

Sub-hypothesis 1. Male Leavers and male Persisters will not differ significantly with respect to their reading ability (CTBS:Raw and Percentile scores).

Sub-hypothesis 2. Female Leavers and female Persisters will not differ significantly with respect to their reading ability (CTBS:Raw and Percentile scores).

Sub-hypothesis 3. Male and female Leavers will not differ significantly with respect to their reading ability (CTBS:Raw and Percentile scores).

(4) Hypothesis Five.

Leavers and Persisters will not differ significantly in their degree of alienation.

Sub-hypothesis 1. Male Leavers and Persisters will not differ significantly in their degree of alienation.

Sub-hypothesis 2. Female Leavers and Persisters will not differ significantly in their degree of alienation.

Sub-hypothesis 3. Male Leavers and female Leavers will not differ significantly in their degree of alienation.

(5) Hypothesis Six.

Leavers and Persisters will not differ significantly in their degree of irrational thinking/ideas.

Sub-hypothesis 1. Male Leavers and male Persisters will not differ significantly in their degree of irrational thinking/ideas.

Sub-hypothesis 2. Female Leavers and female persisters will not differ significantly in their degree of irrational thinking/ideas.

Sub-hypothesis 3. Male and female Leavers will not differ significantly in their degree of irrational thinking/ideas.

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The subjects were 80 adolescents and young adults who were attending or who had previously attended a large (over 950) comprehensive highschool in southwest Saskatchewan. The Persisters (n=40) were selected from classes of 1986-87 Grade 11 students. The Leavers (n=40) consisted of those students who left school (during the 1984-87) before completing Grades 10, 11 or 12. The size of the sample was dictated by the number of Leavers who agreed to participate in the study. The age range of the sample was from 16 to 22 years. In the final sample selection, forty matched-pairs of Persisters and Leavers were obtained in this study over a period of approximately six months from January to June, 1987.

Sample Selection

As is typical of most research in single schools, true random sampling was not possible as this study was limited by the number of participating classes within the highschool as well as the number of volunteer participants from the early school Leavers' group.

The methodological design adapted was an ex-post facto model using a hybrid matched-pairs configuration. The constitution of two matched groups consisting of intergroup matched-pairs was achieved in the following manner:

A total of 129 highschool students and early school leavers attended the test sessions. The establishment of a protocol was dependent upon the completion of the demographic information and the test data as well as the relevant data collected from the cumulative school files (Differential Aptitude Score, reading ability level and grade point averages). Ultimately, 121 protocols were collected in the primary selection process as 8 students did not have DAT scores in their files. However, all other information was available and recorded for the other 121 students, except for the GPA (all) and GPA (core), which was not collected for the students not selected for the Persisters' group (hereafter called Others/Group III).

The Leavers' group consisted of those students who had left school before completing grades 10, 11 or 12 during the 1984-87 school terms. A list of 250 leavers was obtained from the Student Services department of the highschool and letters were sent out to these leavers requesting their participation in the study. Within ten days of the first request letter, another letter was sent out to those 65 students who had not replied to the first. Ultimately, thirty-six early school leavers were tested at the office of the investigator. Four more students from the high school left school during the last semester, bring the final total to 40.

The Persisters' group, which consisted of two classes of Grade 11 students (89 in total), were tested at two consecutive regularly scheduled classes (one Art and two English classes). Ultimately, of the 89, 77 Grade 11 students were selected to match Leavers on sex and composite DAT scores. When two Persisters' scores matched with a Leaver's score, the matching Persister was determined by a coin toss. When there were more than two matching Persister scores, a Persister was selected by the use of the table of random numbers.

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Statistical Analyses

A series of one-way analyses of variance were performed on the following variables for group and sex, specifically:

(a) Test of Logical Thinking score (TOLT)

(b) Reading raw score (CTBS:raw)

(c) Reading percentile score (CTBS:percentile)

(d) Grade point average of core subjects:English, Social Studies, Science and Mathematics (GPA:core)

(e) Grade point average of all subjects taken by the student in the last two semesters of school attendance (GPA:all)

(f) Self-Concept of Ability Score (ACAD.S.C.)

(g) Pupil Attitude Questionnaire (PAQ)

(h) Adult Irrational Ideas Inventory (AII Inventory)

Pearson-product moment correlation were also performed on the above variables to determine the degree of the relationship among the variables. Further analysis was done using the Chi-square test to determine frequency and means for the demographic data provided by the Demographic Information sheet (DIS) and for those variables for which percentage data were deemed useful.

Finally, the data were submitted to discriminant function analysis to determine the extent to which the variables (other than the DAT) would separate the groups, i.e. predict Leavers/Persisters membership. In the case of the Others group (Group III), they were considered in conjunction with the data for the Leavers and Persisters whenever three-group comparisons seemed to facilitate interpretation of the Leavers vs. Persisters' findings.

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Discussion of the Findings

Cognitive Variables

The DAT scores, which were used to match the Leavers and Persisters on intellectual ability, correlated highly (r=.715, p<.000) with the TOLT score, the cognitive measure in this study. The DAT and TOLT correlated positively and significantly with all the academic variables and the academic self-concept measure. The higher the DAT and TOLT scores, the higher the academic achievement, and the higher the academic self-concept scores. On the other hand, the DAT and TOLT scores correlated negatively and significantly with the irrationality measure; therefore, students with higher intellectual ability and logical thinking skills tended to be less irrational.

The DAT and TOLT did not account significantly for the variance in scores on the Normlessness, Powerlessness, Self-Estrangement and Meaninglessness scales on the alienation (PAQ) measure. The only difference between the DAT and TOLT correlations were found on the PAQ-Isolation scale. The significant negative correlation between the TOLT and the Isolation scale accounted for 7.5% of the variance in the scores and the low negative correlation of the DAT with the Isolation scale accounted for less than one per cent of the variance on this scale.

The DAT accounted for 64% of the variance in Leavers and Persisters' scores on the logical thinking measure. The other 35% of the variance on this measure was accounted for by the academic and personality measures. This finding confirms the fact that the groups were fairly well matched in intellectual ability. The Others group had a significantly higher mean DAT score (M=64.49) than the Leavers and Persisters (M=39.75).

On the TOLT measure, both Leavers and Persisters were found to be concrete thinkers. Considering the achievement of the Persisters, there is evidence to support the school success of concrete thinkers. This finding is in agreement with Lawson's (1985) statements in his review of formal reasoning skills and other aspects of intelligence.

The TOLT mean scores of the Leavers (M=2.73) and Persisters (M=2.95) are lower than the TOLT mean scores found in another Saskatchewan study in which Hoge (1986) used the TOLT as a cognitive variable in studying the moral levels of reasoning in children of divorce. The Others group mean of 4.97 appears to be closer to the results of other studies (DeHernandez, Marek, & Renner, 1984; Niaz and Lawson, 1985) which indicate that some adolescents in this age group are not functioning at full formal operational levels.

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Academic Variables

Reading Ability

The discrepancy between the ability of the Leavers and their achievement is of major importance when addressing the factors which account for the differentiating characteristics of Leavers and Persisters. The Leavers' group (M=166.8) had moderately low reading ability as did the Persisters (M=166.2). Both of these mean scores were significantly lower than the mean score of the students in the Others group (M=177.48) who were representative of a normal Grade 11 student population.

The reading scores correlated positively and moderately with the ability

measures (DAT and TOLT scores), accounting for approximately 30% of the variance on both ability measures. This pattern is similar for the intergroup and intragroup sex comparisons.

School leavers are often characterized as poor readers (Bachman, Wirtanen, & Green, 1971; Ekstrom, Goertz, Pollack, & Rock, 1986; Grant, 1976; Havighurst, 1962; Mahood, 1981; Ristow, 1965; Schreiber, 1966). This study confirms these findings, in that the Leavers group did have fairly low reading scores. The Persisters, however, had almost identical reading scores to the Leavers. Since both the Leavers and the Persisters were essentially low ability readers, there appear to be other factors contributing to academic achievement and the decision to leave school.


The Leavers group in this study had higher GPA's than those reported in the 1983 Saskatchewan study on Early School Leavers (Cipywynk, Pawlovich, & Randhawa). In that study, 75% of the Leavers had D or F standings in their last semesters at school. In the present study, the Leavers had D or low C grades. The grade point averages of the Leavers were significantly lower than those of the Persisters. This was also true of the male Leavers and Persisters, but not of the female Leavers and Persisters. As noted previously, the difference between the GPA's of the female Leavers and Persisters was larger than the significant difference found for the male Leavers and Persisters (n=44); however, because of the smaller number of females (n=36), this difference was not statistically significant.

Although both intellectual ability and reading ability are fundamental to scholastic achievement, the difference between the Leavers and Persisters with respect to the gap between ability and achievement appears to be correlated with non-intellectual factors. These mediating `personality' variables become particularly important in the intellectually capable Leaver.

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Personality Variables

Self-Concept of Ability

This measure of academic self-concept correlated positively and significantly with the grade point averages accounting for 3.6% of the variance in GPA:Core and 5.3% of the variance in GPA:All in the Leavers and Persisters' groups combined (N=80). The Persisters had significantly higher academic self-concepts than the Leavers, and the Others group had significantly higher academic self-concepts than the Persisters.

No significant differences were found among the male Leavers, Persisters and Others with respect to their academic self-concepts. In contrast, the female Leavers and Persisters had significantly lower academic self-concepts than the female Others group. Apparently, the female Leavers and Persisters felt inadequate academically when they compared themselves to the female Others group.

Perhaps males and females differ with respect to the factors that affect academic self-concept. A `different' achievement pattern for females was found in a study by O'Malley and Bachman (1976). They found that female Leavers' self-perceptions were different from those of the male Leavers. The females, even when they exhibited higher achievement, often reported feelings of inadequacy or lower academic self-concepts. This finding is in agreement with the other studies using the Self-Concept of Ability with Leavers (Brookover, Lepere, Hamachek, Thomas, & Erickson, 1965).

Perhaps other mediating factors are operating for females. In the present study, females in the Leavers and Persisters groups exhibited significantly lower academic self-concepts than the Others, and were also significantly more alienated than the female Others' group on all measures of the PAQ except Meaninglessness.

The female Leavers had mothers with higher educational levels than their male counterparts. Perhaps, the level of academic expectation for these females within the family/home is related to their lower academic self-concepts. Or, perhaps, because the female Leavers participated to a significantly lesser degree (than their female counterparts) in school-sponsored activities, they do not identify with or seek involvement with their school. The fact that the females in all groups had significantly more part-time jobs may influence (or reflect) their lack of identification with the school and would most certainly affect their participation in extracurricular activities.

Pupil Attitude Questionnaire (PAQ)

The analysis of the Leavers' and Persisters' PAQ:Total and PAQ:Scale scores revealed a higher level of general and specific alienation, with one exception: Self-estrangement. Apparently, Leavers and Persisters in this study experienced almost equal self-estrangement. The mean scores of Self-estrangement for the Leavers (M=40.3) was slightly above the range of the norm sample mean (M=35.7+4) of 1,422 Grade 10-12 students tested by Kolesar in 1967 during the development of the PAQ. The Persisters' mean of 37.8 fell within the `normal' range of self-estrangement; however, as noted, above, there were no significant differences between the Leavers and Persisters on the latter scale.

In other words, in relation to the Self-estrangement scale of the PAQ, both the Leavers and Persisters are individuals who are dependent on anticipated future rewards for a given behavior rather than the rewards intrinsic to the activity (Seeman, 1959, p.790).

For the male Leavers, the overall alienation measure and scale scores were higher than the male Persisters except on the Isolation and Self-estrangement scales. The Persisters' means for both scales are with the normal range (Kolesar, 1967); however, both scale score means for the Leavers are slightly above the Kolesar sample means. In other words, the Leavers and Persisters experienced similar levels of self-estrangement and isolation. Isolated students are characterized by their assignment of low reward values to goals or beliefs that are typically highly valued in society, i.e. education. The father of the male Leavers and Persisters were not as well educated as the mothers. One might conclude, therefore, that the male Leavers and Persisters tend not to attach a high level of importance to education (or to societal values). Perhaps the educational aspirations for the males are lower in the home or community.

In relation to female Leavers and Persisters, the Leavers experienced higher total alienation, powerlessness and self-estrangement than the Persisters. The two female groups, however, showed parity on the Normlessness, Isolation, and Meaninglessness scales. In comparison to Kolesar's (1967) sample means, the Persisters female group was with the normal range on Normlessness; however, the female Leavers scored slightly above the sample mean on the Isolation and Self-estrangement scales. In other words, the female Leavers and Persisters experienced similar feelings of normlessness and were equally self-estranged and isolated.

Normlessness occurs in the situation in which the individual demonstrates a high expectancy that socially unapproved behaviors are required to achieve given goals (Seeman, 1959, p. 787). In the school context, this alienation form may result in individualism and a manipulative attitude on the part of the pupils.

When all three groups (N=121) were compared on the total alienation and scale scores, the Leavers were significantly more alienated than both the Persisters and the Others. The Leavers felt significantly more meaninglessness than the Persisters, but the Others were similar to the Leavers on the Meaninglessness scale.

Meaninglessness is the form of alienation than occurs when there is a decrease in the individual's latitude of decision regarding his own future, understanding of the events in which he is engaged, and in his ability to predict the outcomes of his own behavior (Seeman, 1959, p.786). In other words, the Leavers and Others tend to feel that they lack control of the decisions regarding aspects of their school life.

No significant differences were found among the male groups on the Isolation scale. The Persisters' and others mean scores fell within the range of Kolesar's (1967) sample mean; however, the Leavers' mean was slightly above the sample mean.

When the females in all three groups (n=54) were compared, the Leavers' group had significantly higher overall alienation scores, Powerlessness and Self-estrangement scores than both of the other groups. The Leavers also felt more normlessness and isolation than the Others group; whereas, the female Persisters were similar to the female Leavers on those scales. All three female groups experienced similar feelings of meaninglessness.

In summary, the female Leavers felt more alienated (overall), more self-estranged and more powerless than the other two female groups. Powerlessness is defined as the expectancy or probability held by the individual that her behavior cannot determine the occurence of the outcomes or reinforcement that she seeks (Seeman, 1959, p.783). Female Leavers may tend to feel a lack of control in relation to rewards or achievement of their goals and may be more `externally controlled' than their female counterparts in the Persisters and Others' groups.

The alienation of the Leavers as compared to the Persisters and Others is another mediating variable that may help to explain the lower achievement and the dropping out of the Leavers. If the Leaver is having academic difficulties and is at odds with the value system implicit in the curricula, procedures and social structure of the school, he/she will be more inclined to be less involved with academic concerns.

Further, academic failure frequently has devastating effects on the academic self-concept. Once the adolescent feels he/she is a failure, this perception is difficult to change, either cognitively or behaviorally.

Bosynski (1970), Epperson (1963) and Ekstrom, Pollack, Goertz, and Rock (1986) suggest that alienated students perform less well in school because they are not involved with their environment, feel powerless, and do not find the school `experience' rewarding or satisfying. Kumar, Padro and Watson (1977) drew attention to the "dehumanizing effect" of large schools which contribute to the remoteness of teachers and administrators, and ultimately, to the isolation and powerlessness of the student. The significance of alienation in the school experience of the Leaver has been supported in this study.

Adult Irrational Ideas Inventory (AIII)

There were no significant differences between or among the three groups of Leavers, Persisters and Others in relation to their degree of irrationality. All groups had fairly high scores indicating that they were all somewhat irrational in their thinking. This result may be typical for adolescents in this age group or only for this particular population.

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In light of the research methodology utilized, and this study's subsequent findings, recommendations will be offered to address the cognitive, academic, and personality variables related to the individual student, the school, and the family/community. The recommendations below are not listed in any order of importance and they are proposed in the hope of providing specific suggestions in dealing with the potential early school Leaver (as well as the Leaver and Persister).

Recommendation 1

Efforts should be made to improve the academic achievement of those students who are low achievers. In view of this study's findings, these efforts could be focused in two areas: thinking skills and reading ability.

The implementation of training in the acquisition of logical thinking skills would be benficial for all students, but particularly for those who are potential Leavers. This study found that the Leavers and Persisters (matched on intellectual ability) were concrete thinkers while the Others group (with significantly higher intellectual ability) were classified as formal thinkers. Improved thinking skills enhance overall academic achievement; thus, the low-achieving students will benefit from this type of training. Further, the teaching of logical thinking skills may prove to increase rational thinking and facilitate `appropriate' decision-making processes for all students, particularly the potential Leaver.

Special support for those students who have low reading ability is necessary to maintain or improve academic achievement in those students. As noted in the literature review, low reading ability is characteristic of the early school Leaver and continued efforts to remediate or accommodate for those difficulties must be made,if we hope to decrease early school leaving rates. Support may be provided in the form of resource room assistance, tutorial support, modified Language Arts programs or additional courses in the curriculum which provide specific help for low ability readers.

Reading ability is fundamental to academic achievement. Early intervention measures at the primary level and subsequent remediation of low reading ability are of major importance in the development of a more positive outlook relating to the student's own ability (academic self-concept) and the student's attitude towards school. Obviously, if the school experience is not successful, (and for poor readers,it is not), then alienation from school is an almost inevitable outcome.

Recommendation 2

Implementation of program(s) specifically geared to the fostering of self-concept enhancement (particularly academic self-concept) which, for potential effectiveness, would begin at the elementary and junior-high school levels, would promote the development of positive academic self-concepts in students. Highschool interventions may include support groups for personal/social skill development or individual counselling.

The Leavers in this study had significantly lower academic self-concepts than either of the Persisters and Others group. In view of the significantly lower grade point averages and academic self-concepts, the `potential' Leaver requires personal encouragement coupled with academic support in order to maximize their school experience. This intervention is particularly applicable to the female with poor academic self-concept.

Global self-concept studies (Purkey, 1970; Wylie, 1967) and academic self-concept studies (Brookover, Erikson & Joiner, 1967; Brookover, Lepere, Hamachek, Thomas & Erickson, 1965; Brookover, Paterson & Thomas, 1962) have established a relationship between (academic) self-concept and achievement. If a student `feels'he is capable and of value, the student will attempt to put effort into the required school tasks and activities. Conversely, if the student feels he is not capable of doing the required work, he will probably not try and, consequently, the cycle of negative self-perception and lack of achievement is initiated. In the case of Leavers, this cycle culminates in the act of leaving school.

Recommendation 3

In view of the powerlessness and overall alienation that the Leavers experienced in comparison to the students who were in school, attempts should be made to promote and facilitate school involvement. It may prove useful to investigate further the degree of alienation present in the high school in order to modify existing enrolment procedures and programs offered, as well as modifying other practices related to students' involvement with the bureaucratic aspects of the school, i.e. scheduling of classes, access to remediation/tutorial support, etc.

In addition, other innovative changes related to personnel selection or school climate may prove to make the school more `inviting' and hopefully, succeed in involving the potential Leaver and the reluctant Persister in school activities, etc. Continuation of the work experience program(s) is also important in the retention of some students.

Increased parental support and involvement with the school are important factors contributing to the decrease of alienation from school. Valentine's (1980) study and others (Bachman, Green & Wirtanen, 1971; Cervantes, 1965; Ekstrom, Pollack, Goertz, & Rock, 1986) confirmed that parental influence was of primary importance in the level of educational attainment of the student.

Recommendation 4

In order to facilitate the Leavers' expressed desire to return to school, an attempt should be made by the school (and existing community educational facilities) to promote the Leavers' future educational plans.

This objective may involve several approaches. Letters of information relating to community educational facilities or inquiries concerning their return to school may prove helpful in encouraging some Leavers to return and complete their education. In view of those more mature individuals who may return to school after having a job or being away from school for a year or more, it is essential that special consideration be allowed in their academic, personal and social interactions.

The community and/or school board may wish to investigate the development of an alternative school to accommodate for the educational needs of the early school leaver. In light of this study's findings in relation to the Leavers' low reading ability, low academic self-concept, and feelings of alienation from school, certain emphases would merit consideration within an alternative school in this community. Flexible scheduling, smaller classes and individualized educational plans as well as supportive teachers and guidance personnel would encourage continuation of the alternative educational pursuits of the Leavers.

Recommendation 5

Further research should be carried out in the area of early school leaving in each particular school jurisdiction in order to gain an understanding of the nature and extent of this problem within their locale. Interpretation of early school leaving studies in different areas of the country may not prove to be applicable to the local community investigating this problem. Watson (1975) found, in his Ontario study, that the diversity of the school jurisdictions--their cultural/socio-economic composition, population size, and budgetary considerations--made early school leaving studies imperative at the local level.

Recommendation 6

Further researchers in the area of early school leaving should undertake a longitudinal study which would involve the testing of students in school and the subsequent analyses and interpretation of data after these students leave school. This research methodology would prevent difficulties encountered in relation to contacting the Leavers and in the interpretation of data.

The availability of standardized tests was beneficial to this study's collection of data. School records, however, sometimes did not permit clear identification of the early school leaver. Clarity in recording names, addresses, and grade levels of those students who have not completed their highschool education would be helpful to researchers as well as those personnel involved with the dispersement of educational information, etc. to the Leavers.


The process of becoming an early school leaver is complex because the act of rejecting an institution as fundamental to the society as school must also be accompanied by the belief that the institution has rejected the person (Wehlage & Rutter, 1986). It begins early in the school careers of these youths and accumulates throughout their educational lives. It starts with negative messages from the school relating to academic or behavioral concerns. As these messages grow into concrete problems--low grades and disciplinary concerns--the choice is between continuing an extra year or more in a setting that offers increasingly negative experiences and `dropping out'.

In Saskatchewan, many of our youths elect to leave school to escape to the perceived opportunities and experiences outside. Although there are several routes that a dropout can use to reenter the system of formal education (Hugie, 1984), these youths generally believe that school is not for them--a decision that precludes many opportunities for personal and economic advancement in their future.

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Bachman, J.G., Green, S. & Wirtanen, I.D. (1971). Youth in transition, Vol.III: Dropping Out--Problem or Symptom? Ann Arbor, Michigan: The University of Michigan, Institute for Social Research.

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