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What Works? Targeted Truancy and Dropout Programs in Middle and High School

NCJ Number
T. Klima; M. Miller; C. Nunlist
Date Published
20 pages

This report discusses a meta-analysis that analyzed evidence-based practices for truancy reduction and dropout prevention among middle and high school students.


This document presents a review of research findings regarding programs implemented by schools, courts, and law enforcement agencies, on efforts to reduce truancy and dropout rates among middle and high school students. The research studies that were reviewed for this report had to meet three broad criteria: program focus and setting to include school-based interventions, alternative education programs for at-risk students, and court and police programs for truant youth; evaluation design and methodology requirements were that evaluations must have compared outcomes for students who participated in a program with those of an equivalent group that did not participate in the program; and outcomes measured had to include either school attendance, high school graduation, or dropout status, and where available, enrollment status was also recorded and combined with attendance into a single variable reflecting students’ presence at school. Overall, the authors reviewed 877 programs through websites, databases, and more than 460 individual publications; only 22 studies ultimately met the authors’ criteria for research methodology and relevant outcomes, and those 22 studies form the basis for the analysis presented in this report. The authors conclude that the targeted programs had small positive effects on dropping out, presence at school, and student achievement; the evidence suggested that programs with the most promise for at-risk populations included alternative programs, mentoring approaches, and behavioral interventions.