Vocational training and types of engagement as predictors of dropout for students with high incidence disabilities
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The conditions known as Learning Disabilities (LD) and Emotional and Behavior Disorders (EBD) are consistently associated with factors that place students at risk of dropping out of high school, such as low positive engagement at school and low academic success (Christenson & Thurlow, 2004; Fredricks, Blumenfeld, & Paris, 2004; Murray, 2003). Some studies report dropout rates for youth with LD and EBD at 25% to 44% (Wagner, Newman, Cameto, Garza, & Levine, 2005). Dropping out of school is known to be mitigated for students without disabilities by certain types of vocational training (Stone & Alfeld, 2004), but very little is known about the effects of vocational training for students with LD or EBD. To address these issues, this dissertation used data from the National Longitudinal Transition Study-2 (NLTS-2) to analyze the association of four categories of predictor variables with the outcome of high school dropout for students with LD or EBD. Variables included demographic (gender, race/ethnicity, and family income), vocational (apprenticeship, skills training, and tech prep), family engagement, and negative youth engagement measures. Comparative analyses were used to examine associations and differences between predictor variables and the outcome of dropout. Additionally, Poisson regression analyses considered whether the presence of certain predictor variables contributed (negatively or positively) to the likelihood of high school dropout. Results of this study confirmed previous high dropout rates for students with either a learning disability (6.8%) or behavior disorder (16.5%). In addition, this study showed that youth who were Latino with LD or EBD (9.7% and 19.5% dropout rates, respectively) were more likely to drop out of school than youth who were White (6.5% and 15.9%) or African American (6.5% and 16.3%) with the same conditions. Youth with LD or EBD who participated in general vocational training (5.7%) were more likely to drop out of school than youth who completed specific types of vocational training (<1%). These findings served as the basis for developing implications for practice and research. In particular, this study suggests that existing interventions and programs related to vocational training, bullying, and physical violence may have the potential to curtail high school dropout rates for youth with LD and EBD.