School Dropout Prevention in the Durham Public Schools: Development, Implementation and Evaluation of Effective Strategies (2016-2017)

This Bass Connections project took on the challenge of school dropout prevention through a social science systems approach, a positive youth development perspective, an emphasis on early identification of who is at risk for dropping out and an emphasis on strengthening social capital in the form of providing direct support and encouragement to at-risk students.

The project’s goals were to implement and evaluate scalable interventions targeting students within the highest-risk categories and to solidify a collaborative relationship with Durham Public Schools focused on opportunities for student engagement, collaborative research and meaningful change in educational policies and practices.

Building on the previous team’s work, the 2016-17 team implemented and evaluated two student-created interventions in Githens Middle School focused on girls’ school engagement and a goal-setting and mentoring group at Lakeview School. Lakeview School is an alternative school that serves as the educational site for middle-school and high-school students from throughout the Durham Public Schools system who have received out-of-school suspensions for severe behavioral infractions. Team members worked directly with school personnel and other stakeholders in the dropout prevention process. They made regular visits to schools to meet with administrators, tour school sites, interview principals and other school professionals and staff and engage in one-on-one or group mentoring of students at risk of dropping out.

The faculty team leaders successfully pilot-tested a method for combining qualitative/ethnographic and quantitative/behavioral assessment of at-risk students and their families. Dr. Strauman trained the student team members in simple, reliable assessment of academic-related neurocognition and affect regulation. These data will be particularly valuable for incorporating an in-depth assessment approach to school dropout with related but disconnected literatures on youth neurodevelopment.


Fall 2016 – Summer 2017

Team Outcomes

Ann Brewster, Paul Pisani, Max Ramseyer, Jack Wise. “Building a University-Community Partnership to Promote High School Graduation and Beyond: An Innovative Undergraduate Team Approach.” 2016. Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education 8(1)44-58.

Implementation and evaluation of two interventions in Githens Middle School focused on girls’ school engagement

Implementation and evaluation of a goal-setting and mentoring group at Lakeview School

See earlier related team, Disconnected Youth and School Dropout Prevention (2014-2015).

Team Leaders

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Hannah Barton
  • Lisa Guraya, Public Policy Studies (AB)
  • Alexandra (Sasha) Karelov
  • Attyat Mayans, Public Policy Studies (AB)

/yfaculty/staff Team Members

  • Ann Brewster, Social Science Research Institute*
  • Timothy Strauman, Arts & Sciences-Psychology and Neuroscience*

/zcommunity Team Members

  • Durham Public Schools