Off-campus UMass Amherst users: To download dissertations, please use the following link to log into our proxy server with your UMass Amherst user name and password.

Non-UMass Amherst users, please click the view more button below to purchase a copy of this dissertation from Proquest.

(Some titles may also be available free of charge in our Open Access Dissertation Collection, so please check there first.)

A psychological explanation for the differential effectiveness of selected dropout prevention program components

Norah Ashe Lusignan, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This study was conducted in 12 high schools in Massachusetts that were funded for dropout prevention. Reports indicated that some of these schools were more successful than others in reducing the dropout rate. The purpose of the study was to identify variables existing in these high school programs that are associated with increases and decreases in the dropout rate. The study sought to test the hypothesis that schools that were strong in student support were successful in reducing the dropout rate. A conceptual map was developed showing hypothesized causal relationships among variables. In the map, interventions were framed as variables (e.g., "the extent to which teachers are expected to attend workshops to develop strategies for communicating, understanding and teaching the at-risk students"), and the impact of changes in such variables was traced to the ultimate variable "willingness to keep trying." Immediately before arriving at this final variable, the paths from each of the intervention variables passed through one of four "proximate" variables: the extent to which at-risk students experience their academic tasks as involving, sense of belonging, the instrumental value of graduation, and the perceived likelihood of school success. The trust of this dissertation was developing this map and testing the extent to which there was a relationship between efforts that appeared to be likely to change these proximal variables (taken one at a time) and a district's dropout rate. A questionnaire was designed that asked questions relating to the four proximal variables, as well as how well each school's dropout-related efforts appeared to be organized, focused and coordinated in a coherent manner. Additional questions sought to see what else might be happening in the school that might impact the dropout rate. The results indicated that two of the key proximal variables correlated positively and all four approached significance on a stepwise regression analysis. During the study "program coherence" emerged as an important variable and also proved significant in impacting the dropout rate.

Subject Area

Academic guidance counseling|School administration

Recommended Citation

Lusignan, Norah Ashe, "A psychological explanation for the differential effectiveness of selected dropout prevention program components" (1991). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9207429.