Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type

Dissertation - NSU Access Only

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Abraham S. Fischler College of Education


Mel Coleman

Committee Member

Melinda Fronrath


At risk, Dropouts, Graduation Rates, high schools, socioeconomic status


This applied dissertation was designed to describe and explain the dropout phenomenon occurring in a rural high school in southeastern North Carolina. Caucasian students were dropping out at a disproportionate rate compared to other ethnic groups in the school. Over the last 4 years, 68 students did not graduate with their prospective class at the southeastern rural North Carolina high school research site; approximately 63% of those students were Caucasian, and 37% were non-Caucasian. Caucasian students were the smallest population at the selected high school (40%); however, they accounted for the highest average percentage of dropouts (63%). In 2011, Caucasian students alone accounted for 81% of the total dropouts. In essence, the largest ethnic group not graduating in this rural school district was Caucasian students. In an effort to investigate the academic, social, and home factors (strains) that may have contributed to the high dropout rate of Caucasian students, a study was conducted at the high school. The study involved investigating perceptions of professional staff at the selected high school. Professional staff completed a survey that measured perceptions as to why Caucasian students dropped out a higher rate than other ethnic groups. The general research design answering the 2 research questions for this study was a explanatory mixed-methods research design utilizing quantitative and qualitative data collected sequentially. After calculating descriptive statistics from survey responses (means and frequency of occurrence), performing a chi-square goodness-of-fit test, and conducting focus-group interviews, the results of the study indicated that professional staff members at the selected high school perceived that academic and home and community setting strains, not social strains, were the greatest influence on why Caucasian students were not graduating at the same rate as non-Caucasian high school students at the selected rural high school.

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