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  • January 2017
  • Vol. 17, No. 10

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The Impact of Social Relationships on Youth Educational Outcomes

In 2014, America's Promise Alliance and its Center for Promise at Tufts University released Don't Call Them Dropouts: Understanding the Experiences of Young People Who Leave High School Before Graduation. The report outlined key messages from more than 200 youth interviewed about why they dropped out of school before graduation and what would help them return to school. In 2016, the Center released a follow-up report, Don't Quit on Me: What Young People Who Left School Say About the Power of Relationships, highlighting a study of the impact of social relationships on educational outcomes for youth.

Data for the study on social relationships and supports were collected via interviews with 102 young people during 16 group interviews, followed by 19 individual interviews. Additionally, a 96-question national survey of 2,830 young people focused on youth demographics, such as the background of their parents and their relationships with parents, family, and peers.

Four key findings are outlined in the report:

  • Student responses revealed that dealing with adverse life experiences (ALEs), such as a toxic home environment, violence, or homelessness, without having supportive relationships, had detrimental effects on their education.
  • The sources and types of support in a student's life and if that support is sufficient during times of adversity play an important role in predicting whether students stay in school.
  • The more supportive relationships a student has, the more likely he or she is to stay in school or go back after dropping out.
  • Students identified three sources of support as the most impactful—the anchor (someone who is not a family member or paid youth worker); the youth worker; and the web of support, which encompasses their entire network of support.

Report authors suggest further research is needed on the mental health concerns of students who have dropped out of school, the level of support they receive from the adults in their schools, the level of support they receive from their parents, and prevention and intervention strategies that will help students dealing with ALEs. In addition, the report lists recommendations for individuals, schools, and communities on how to provide the proper support to keep students in school, such as being present in the youth's life; ending zero-tolerance disciplinary practices that discourage a student from returning to school, such as suspensions and expulsions; and making sure at-risk students have access to youth workers and anchors.

Don't Quit on Me: What Young People Who Left School Say About the Power of Relationships is available at http://www.gradnation.org/sites/default/files/FullReport%20DontQuit_23mar16.pdf (4 MB).

Don't Call Them Dropouts: Understanding the Experiences of Young People Who Leave High School Before Graduation is available at http://www.gradnation.org/sites/default/files/DCTD%20Final%20Full_0.pdf (2 MB)


 

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