Making Connections Across Indicators to Improve Post-School Outcomes:

Early State Efforts

  • Additional Resources
  • References
  • II. Making Connections Across Indicators to Understand Trends

    C. Making Connections Between Graduation, Dropping Out, and Post-School Outcomes

    How a student exits school may have an impact on their experiences after leaving school. For example, for the Class of 2005 in Indiana (IN), those graduating with a regular diploma were most likely to have transitioned successfully while those students who had reached maximum age were the least likely (IN). Identifying these patterns and finding out what may be causing them can help state and local staff to modify programs or policies to target the special needs of each group.

    Section Contents

    This section helps states examine connections between exit status and post-school outcomes by providing:
    • Guiding questions for analysis
    • An example of an Indiana (IN) data display used to analyze trends
    • Ways findings have impacted local/state policy and practice in Washington (WA), New York (NY), and Alabama (AL)
    Guiding Questions for Analysis of Exit Status Differences
    To assist with analysis of variations in outcomes for students depending on how they exited school, states can use the following guiding questions as a framework.
    How do post-school outcomes differ for youth by how they exited school (exit status)?
    • Are there significant differences in post-school outcomes
      • By type of diploma received?
      • Between those who graduated and those who dropped out?
      • Between students who graduated and those who reached maximum age?
      • Between those who reached maximum age and those who dropped out?
      • In user-friendly, alternative formats in multiple ways?
    • Are these differences consistent
      • For both employment and postsecondary school enrollment?
      • Over time? (Bost et al., 2007)
      • Across all state LEAs?
    Overall, which type of exit from school is least likely to lead to successful post-school outcomes and which type of exit is most likely?
    What happens to dropouts after they leave school? Do they get a GED, pursue further education, connect to adult service agencies, or get a job? (NY, TX)

    1The following staff provided graphics included in this section: Adam Bauserman, Ball State Univeristy, Indiana (IN). Graphics included are derived from actual state data or, if state data were not available, prototypes were developed for the purposes of this guide. The following staff from other states also made contributions to this section, as noted in parenthesis after relevant text by state abbreviation: Karen Rabren and George Hall at Auburn University in Alabama (AL); Teresa Grossi, Indiana University (IN); Doris Jamison, Joanne LaCrosse, Wendy Latimer, and Cynthia Wilson with the New York State Department of Education (NY); Debby Norris and Carla Johnson with the Texas Department of Education (TX); and Cinda Johnson and Lisa Scheib at Seattle University in Washington State (WA).

    Important Reminder About Data Quality

    Unless data is based on a representative sample, collected through a rigorous research design, and analyzed using appropriate statistics, only tentative conclusions can be drawn. In the absence of these, however, information gathered can, when included with data from other sources, serve as a starting point for developing improvement plans and activities.

    Examples of State Analyses of the Impact of Exit Status on Post-School Outcomes

    When analyzing the impact of a student's exit status on post-school outcomes, it is often helpful to develop visual displays to make trends easier to identify. Figure 1 illustrates trends across school leavers in Indiana, based on how they exited school, whether with a regular diploma, a Certificate of Completion, by reaching maximum age, or by dropping out.

    Indiana Analysis of Exit Status and Post-School Outcomes

    Figure C-1. Reported post-school status by exit status, Indiana 2004-2005 school leavers, one year out

    Figure C-1. Reported post-school status by exit status, Indiana 2004-2005 school leavers, one year out.

    Source: Data are from the Wisconsin Post High School Outcomes Survey for Individuals with Disabilities of 2005-06 school leavers (exiters), surveyed in the spring of 2007, M. Kampa and L. Gulczynski, CESA #11, Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, 2007.

    Use of Findings in Policy and Practice

    Once patterns are identified in outcomes by exit status, states and LEAs can consider modifying practices or policies to assist different groups to achieve better post-school outcomes and target resources accordingly. Ways that exit status patterns shaped improvement activities in three of the contacted states are described below.

    • One group of LEAs in Washington State examining their post-school outcome survey results were surprised at the low number of special education graduates overall (Johnson, 2007). Large LEAs in the group reported that they had a difficult time identifying students that were leaving their district. To address this, one large LEA put the special education department head at each high school in their district in charge of identifying all special education students in each cohort (Johnson, 2007). Due to these changes, more and more special education students have been identified in subsequent class cohorts.
    • Staff in New York State found out through survey responses that many of their dropouts were attending or looking for GED programs after leaving school or were in need of connections to other adult support services. To address this need for these and other former students, referral information on GED programs and other services is provided by staff at the survey call-in center as they are interviewing students for the post-school follow-up survey (NY).
    • After analyzing graduation and dropout data over a 10-year period, staff in Alabama discovered an apparent relationship over time between students exiting with an Occupational Diploma and students dropping out. Between 2000 and 2005, as the number of students exiting with an Occupational Diploma increased, the number of students dropping out decreased. In 2006, when the number of students receiving an Occupational Diploma decreased, the number dropping out increased. This trend suggests that the Occupational Diploma program may be helping to keep some students in school (AL).

    III. Additional Resources

    IV. References