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The experimental dynamic of early school leavers who return to school via an alternate program Arcand, Connie 1992

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THE EXPERIENTIAL DYNAMIC OF EARLY SCHOOL LEAVERSWHO RETURN TO SCHOOL VIA AN ALTERNATE PROGRAMbyCONNIE ARCANDB.Ed. University of Saskatchewan, 1991A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OFTHE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OFMASTER OF ARTSinTHE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIESDepartment of Counselling PsychologyWe accept this thesis as conformingto the required standardTHE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIASeptember, 1992© Connie Arcand, 1992In presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements for an advanceddegree at the University of British Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make itfreely available for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensivecopying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the head of mydepartment or by his or her representatives. It is understood that copying orpublication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my writtenpermission.(Signature)Department of  Counselling PsychologyThe University of British ColumbiaVancouver, CanadaDate ^October 7, 1992 DE-6 (2/88)AbstractThe purpose of this study was to examine the experienceof dropping out of and returning to school from theperspective of the early school leaver. The co-researchers interviewed for this study were twelvestudents currently enrolled in an alternate program inone school district in the lower mainland of BritishColumbia, Canada. The alternate program was a self-paced academic program leading to Grade 12 graduation.The interviews were analyzed according to both theprogression of events from the time of first thinkingabout leaving school until the time of enrollment inthe alternate program, and according to categories ofsituations leading to dropping out of and to returningto school. The results of this study support theliterature on the significance of the family, peers,school and alienation in early school leaving. Thisstudy also found that these students exhibiteddevelopmental delay according to both Erikson's (1963)and Kegan's (1982) models. This study suggests thatdevelopmental delay may be important in determiningwhether individuals will drop out and when they mightreturn to school.ii.Table of ContentsPageABSTRACT^LIST OF TABLES^LIST OF FIGURES viLIST OF APPENDICES^ viiACKNOWLEDGEMENTS viiiCHAPTER I^INTRODUCTION^ 1CHAPTER II LITERATURE REVIEW ^ 11Situations Associated WithEarly School Leaving^ 11Consequences of Early School Leaving^ 19Programs to Prevent Early School Leaving^ 21Re-entry Programs^ 24Program Evaluation 28CHAPTER III METHODOLOGY^ 32Co-researchers^ 32Methodological Approach^ 34Data Collection^ 35Pilot Interview 36Co-researcher Interviews^ 37iiiData Analysis^ 391. Protocol validity check^ 402. A) Establishment of categoriesof situations related to earlyschool leaving^ 41B) Category validity check^ 42C) Rating sheet analysis 43D) Reliability check ofrating-sheets^ 44E) Establishing category content^ 443. Co-researcher life-line analysis^ 454. Holistic description^ 455. Theoretical analysis of protocols^ 45CHAPTER IV^RESULTS^ 47CHAPTER V^DISCUSSION^ 114CHAPTER VI^SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS^ 136REFERENCES^ 144APPENDICES^ 156ivList of TablesPageDemographic Information^ 33Family Situations Contributing toEarly School Leaving^ 67Family Situations Contributing toContinuing Education^ 68Peer Group Situations Contributing toEarly School Leaving^ 74Peer Group Situations Contributing toContinuing Education^ 75School Situations Contributing toLeaving School^ 83School Situations Contributing toContinuing Education^ 84List of FiguresPageFigure 1. Emotional Experience of DroppingOut and Returning^ 59Figure 2. Peer Group Involvement^ 60Figure 3. Association With Drugs and Alcohol^ 61Figure 4. Emotional Proximity to Family^ 62viList of AppendicesPageA Consent Form^ 156B Pilot Study^ 158C Validity Summary for Co-researcher # 11^ 161D Category Rating Sheet^ 166E Checked Category Rating Sheet^ 159viiAcknowledgementsMany people have helped me in the completion ofthis research. I am particularly grateful to the youngco-researchers who generously and openly shared part oftheir life experience. I would also like to thank theschool district personnel and teachers involved in the"Amigos" program for their accessibility and willingassistance; you are a credit to our profession.In addition, I am grateful to my teachers andcolleagues for guidance and support throughout mygraduate program as well as in the preparation of thiswork. One colleague in particular, Elizabeth Smith,was invaluable in checking the data and the ratingsheets.I would also like to thank my family, Paul, Jilland Steven for unending support, generosity andencouragement.Finally, this work is dedicated to Susan MaryWeber, my mother, whose example has been a constantbeacon in my life.viiiI INTRODUCTIONIn 1987 the Royal Commission on Education in theProvince of British Columbia, more popularly known asthe Sullivan Commission, was told by many of thethousands who presented before it that the schoolsystem in British Columbia was not meeting theeducational needs of a significant number of childrenin any consistent manner. One of the most seriousperceived consequences of the education system'sinadequacies was a very high dropout rate amongadolescents. The commission report, A Legacy forLearners, cites Ministry of Education statisticsindicating that only "approximately 60% of the studentswho register in Grade 9 will graduate from Grade 12"(Sullivan, B., 1988, p. 104). Although the report doesnot state how this dropout figure was derived, it isapparent that a large number of students in thisprovince leave school before graduating.A very strong perception exists concerning theundesirable social and economic consequences ofdropping out of school before graduation. Those wholeave school before graduation have significantly lesslifetime earnings than graduates (McDill, Natriello &12Pallas, 1986) and are more likely to be unemployed andunemployed for a longer period of time (Sullivan,1988). Female dropouts, moreover, are more likely tobe in occupations characterized as constituting thefemale job ghetto, low level service occupations suchas cashiers, waitresses, and domestic helpers(Sullivan, 1988). Rubenson (1992) summed up thefeelings of many of the public toward the number ofstudents who leave before graduating: "The dropoutrate is a threat not just to the economy but also tothe very notion of a fair and just society" (p. 27).It is with a desire for fairness and justice for all ofour students that this study is undertaken.One of the first challenges involved in initiatinga study on dropouts is the lack of a consistentdefinition for the term "dropout". Being a dropout isnot a clear status. Students may be absent forextended periods or may withdraw or transfer withoutnotifying the school in which case they may not becounted as having dropped out of the school system. Inaddition, some students who have either formally orinformally dropped out of school may re-enroll in highschool, alternate education programs or other educationor training centers thereby, according to Orr (1987),3changing their dropout status. Solomon (1989) addsthat there is another form of dropping out: "remainingin school but disengaging from the pursuit of academiccredentials" (p. 79) with the result of failure toattain the competencies and credentials necessary forsuccessful participation in adult life, particularly insocial and economic endeavors.Each province, state, district and school definesdropouts in its own way and selects its own criteriafor data collection and analyses. According to Barber& McClellan (1987):Currently available statistics often make itdifficult to compare schools within a district.It is practically impossible to compare districtsto one another, to assess the factors that mightbe related to dropping out, or to develop modelprograms of dropout prevention. Consequently,many of the reported dropout statistics - local,state, or national - are in error because theyrely on widely different definitions or divergentdatabases (p. 264).Mann (1986) somewhat facetiously compared using thesedata to inform dropout program management to"obstetricians trying to improve their forceps delivery4techniques by peering at the Current Population Surveyfrom the Bureau of the Census (p. 322). His intent,however, is that meaning not be attached to the dropoutfigures without carefully checking the data upon whichit is based.In the province of British Columbia there arecountless programs developed at the provincial,district or school level to meet the perceived needs ofthe potential school leaver and the leaver who wants toreturn to the school system. In addition, the federalgovernment, through its Stay-In-School initiative(Ministry of Education and Ministry Responsible forMulticulturalism and Human Rights, 1992) has sponsoredhundreds of projects in this province and throughoutthe rest of the country in an effort to combat highyouth unemployment and unemployability. Many of theseprojects are designed and implemented at the school ordistrict level by caring and dedicated professionals onthe basis of perceived need rather than on a researchedunderstanding of who is dropping out and why, and whois returning and why. These professionals and theyoung people they are trying to help would be wellserved by a clear definition of the term "dropout" sothat accurate figures could be compiled, potential5leavers and returnees targeted, and efforts could befocussed where and when they would be most effective.Morrow (1986) indicated that a review of reasonsfor dropping out used by school districts suggestedthree criteria for a definition of who is dropping out:(1) Is the student actively enrolled? (2) If not, hasthe enrollment been formally transferred to anotherlegitimate institution? (3) Has the student earned ahigh school diploma or its equivalent? He furtherelaborates that a useful definition of a dropout is:...any student, previously enrolled in a school,who is no longer actively enrolled as indicated byfifteen days of consecutive unexcused absence, whohas not satisfied local standard for graduation,and for whom no formal request has been receivedsignifying enrollment in another state-licensededucational institution. A student death is nottallied as a dropout. The designation of dropoutcan be removed by proof of enrollment in a state-licensed educational institution or bypresentation of an approved high school graduationcertificate (p. 353).Hammack (1986) stated that school districts varyin the formulas used to calculate dropout rates. There6is some justification for the belief that districtswill report dropout rates in the manner mostadvantageous for their own political needs. If fundingis granted on the basis of need for programming forstudents designated as at risk of dropping out, thenthe district may report in such a way as to secure theadditional funds. If the district is being assessed onthe basis of how it meets the needs of the studentsentrusted into its care, then the dropout figures maybe presented in a manner which would minimize theirnumbers.The most common procedure for arriving at adropout rate is to divide the number of dropouts by thetotal enrollment for the grade levels included during asingle year. Other districts follow cohorts, usuallyacross the secondary school years. The Ministry of Education Annual Report for the Province of British Columbia (1991) arrived at the reported provincialdropout rate using the ratio of the number of studentsentering Grade 8 in 1985 to the number who completedtheir Grade 12 in June 1990. According to the Ministryfigures 63% completed Grade 12 and an additional 24%had entered Grade 12 but had not graduated because ofinsufficient credits, withdrawal during the year or7following a course of studies that would not lead tofulfillment of the graduation requirements. TheMinistry report does not elaborate on the fact thatmany secondary schools in B.C. do not begin at Grade 8,but have junior secondary schools beginning at eitherGrade 7 or 8, and senior schools which begin at Grade10 or Grade 11. The data also do not reflect thenumbers of Grade 12 students who may complete theirgraduation requirements after the June exams byattending summer school, rewriting the failed exams inAugust, or completing correspondence school coursesafter the June deadline.The Ministry's perspective of school completion,however, is useful as a basis for the definition of adropout for this study. According to the provincialstatistics 13% to 37% of young people leave the schoolprogram before completing Grade 12.For the purpose of this research, therefore, adropout may be best defined in the broadest terms as anearly school leaver - one who has left the regularschool system before graduation. For the purpose ofthis study, one subgroup of early school leavers willbe examined - those who acknowledge leaving the regular8school system and who have chosen to complete theirgraduation requirements in an alternate school setting.No reliable follow-up data exist for the earlyschool leaver in this province. Although it is notknown how many, or with which characteristics, some ofthe early school leavers attempt to resume theireducation. Many of these young people come back to theschool system after only a few months; others after aperiod of years. Some enroll in training programs suchas hairdressing, secretarial or culinary schools whichdo not have Grade 12 graduation as part of theirentrance requirements, but according to Rubenson (1992)more individuals enroll in adult education courses suchas these who have completed high school than who haveleft before graduation.Other early school leavers re-enter the schoolsystem by enrolling in up-grading, social learning oracademic programs offered by the school districts.These are usually designated as alternate schools orprograms. According to Hahn (1987) the alternativeschools "work well for highly motivated dropouts; theydo not always work so well for others" (p. 261).In light of the important function an educationserves in both the economic and social future of the9individuals, it would be valuable to look at theprocess of early school leaving and returning to theeducation system from the experiential perspective ofthe early school leaver. This study will examine onegroup of early school leavers, those who have returnedto complete an academic education through an alternateprogram which allows them to work at their own pace.This study is important for several reasons.First, to date the Province of British Columbia has notpublished a significant body of research studying earlyschool leavers, and in light of the Sullivan Commissionreport (1988), such a study is warranted. Second, verylittle research in the field of early school leavinghas centered upon the experiential reality of droppingout of and returning to school. This study wouldprovide valuable information to school officials,teachers, and counsellors about dropping out of schoolfrom the perspective of the early school leaver;information on which to base programming, curricula,and counselling interventions which may help to retainmore students in a meaningful school situation untilthey graduate. According to Mann (1986) "Everyoneagrees that the way young people experience school isthe most frequently cited reason for quitting schoolearly" (p. 309). But what does that mean? In askingthe question "What is the experience of early schoolleaving and returning to an academic alternateprogram?" this study attempts to focus on a clearlydefined subgroup of early school leavers, so that newlight may be shed upon the dynamic of leaving schooland upon the meaning that the individual makes of hisor her school career.10II LITERATURE REVIEWLiterature in the field of dropout studies may beroughly divided into four broad areas: situationsassociated with early school leaving, consequences ofearly school leaving, programs developed to reduce thenumbers or rate of dropouts and programs designed toprovide re-entry into the education system.Situations Associated with Early School LeavingThe literature on causes for early school leavingmay be further divided into three categories ofsituations most frequently associated with orinfluencing school leaving by adolescents: (a) factorsexternal to the school system, (b) personalcharacteristics, and (c) factors within the schoolsystem. Although factors overlap among the categories,there is regrettably little research exploring theirrelationships or how they are experienced by theindividual.Low socioeconomic status is the most commonlyreported situation external to the school systemassociated with dropping out (Rumberger, 1983;Steinberg, Blinde & Chan, 1984). The High School and1112Beyond study (Peng, 1983) showed on all possibleindicators of hardship from low income to limitededucational background, that disadvantaged studentswere three times more likely to drop out than theadvantaged students. According to Hahn (1987) schoolleaving rates tended to increase with the proportion ofthe student body classified as poor. His researchindicated that in urban schools where less than 20% ofthe students would be classified as poor, the dropoutrate was 13%. In schools where more than 50% of thestudents were poor, the dropout rate was more thandouble that figure at 30%.It is not clear from the studies which indicatethe correlation of low SES to early school leaving,just what it is about low SES that influences thedropout rate. Karp (1988) found in her discussionswith teachers in the province of Ontario that theyperceived that many low SES students who came fromoutside the province did not have the same academicbackground or cultural perspective for learningstructures or in some cases value for education as theyperceived in Ontario-educated students. This wasparticularly evident in the Black cultures whichoriginated from outside of Canada. Because of the13disparate expectations for learning, these immigrantsexperienced frustration and lack of success, and manyconsequently dropped out. Two recent studies suggestedlow teacher expectations for low SES studentscontributed to early school leaving. Boyce (1990)found that teachers in high SES schools had higher orgreater expectations for student academic achievementthan did teachers in low SES elementary schools even ifthe teachers had training in working with students atrisk. Kitchen (1990) found that low SES background wasa contributing factor to student placement in "lowtrack" or low ability classes and that placement inthese classes had a stronger negative effect on thestudent's chances of completing school than did priorachievement.Frequently found in tandem with low SES, racialfactors are strongly associated with dropping out fromschools in Canada and the United States. According toEkstrom, Goertz, Pollack, & Rock (1986) dropout occursat a proportionally higher rate among Hispanics andBlacks in the United States. Kunisawa (1988) foundthat the studies showed that American Indians andHispanics have the highest dropout rate in Americanschools, followed by Blacks, Whites and Asians.14Trueba (1989), however, added a most importantdimension to the ethnic/SES factor in his discussion ofthe role of culture in student achievement. He pointedout that if the school is perceived as beingdestructive to the home culture then alienation willsurely result and student achievement will benegatively affected. In a similar vein, Solomon (1989)looked at the participation of black students in sportsin a large urban Canadian school. He found that whilethese students had remained enrolled in the schools,they had dropped out of the academic culture of theschool and adopted an alternative sport cultureperceived to be supported by their coaches and themedia who lionize successful Black athletes. These twostudies are seen as particularly relevant to thisresearch in that they have delved behind thedemographic description of the early school leaver tounderstand one aspect of the meaning underlying thesocioeconomic/racial association with dropping out andhow this is integrated into the meaning-making system(Kegan, 1982) of the adolescent.Other background factors associated with dropoutsinclude coming from a single-parent family (Ekstrom etal., 1986; Karp, 1988; Neill, 1979; Rumberger, 1983)15and working more hours and for higher wages than schoolstayers (Ekstrom et al., 1986). In addition, Rumberger(1983) posited that the educational level attained byone or both parents would be a predictor of the child'sachievement. If the parents had not graduated, it wasmore probable that the student would leave schoolbefore graduation. Waddell (1990) concluded that earlyschool leavers felt that their parents valuedgraduation less and would-be less displeased if theydropped out or had poor grades.Of the school related factors, poor schoolperformance is most frequently associated with droppingout but the supporting data for this factor aresomewhat unclear. Kaplan & Luck (1977) found that asmany as 50% of the dropouts had been held back at leastonce. Roderick (1991) found that after controlling forbackground and school performance, youth who haverepeated grades are substantially more likely to dropout regardless whether that retention occurred early orlate in the school career. She concluded that the riskof dropping out may be attributable to an independentimpact of being overage for grade. According to theOERI Urban Superintendents Network (1987) poor academicperformance is the single best predictor of who drops16out. Students earning D's and F's are more apt toleave than those scoring A's or B's. In the HighSchool and Beyond study of 1980 and 1982, most dropoutssurveyed said that they left school because of poorgrades (Peng, 1983).But a discrepancy between the perception and thereality of exactly what constitutes successful orunsuccessful performance appears to exist in the mindsof the early school leavers. The sophomores whoremained in school in the High School and Beyond studyreported a grade average of "B", while those whodropped out reported grades of "mostly Cs", adifference of about one standard deviation. Sullivan(1988) in a survey of Ontario dropouts and non-dropoutsfound similar results. Ralph (1989) found that two outof three dropouts report making mostly C's or better.The Urban Superintendents Network (1987) found thatless than 15% of all high school students have overallgrade-point averages below C. According the HighSchool and Beyond study, the typical dropout's gradeswere at approximately the sixteenth percentile of theschool stayers, yet on the achievement tests for thatstudy, the dropouts' scores were between the twenty-third and twenty-eighth percentile of the stayers17(Ekstrom et al., 1986). It would appear then that theperception of not doing well or not being able to dowell in school is a more significant factor in thestudent leaving school before graduation than theactual performance.Discipline problems are another school relatedfactor associated with dropping out. Early schoolleavers are more likely to have cut classes, beensuspended or put on probation, have had confrontationswith teachers and had serious trouble with the law(Ekstrom et al., 1986). Wehlage and Rutter (1986),however, put the disciplinary factor into context:If one comes from a low SES background, which maysignify various forms of family stress orinstability, and if one is consistentlydiscouraged by the school because of signals aboutacademic inadequacies and failures, and if oneperceives little interest or caring on the part ofteachers, and if one sees the institution'sdiscipline system as both ineffective and unfairbut one has serious encounters with thatdiscipline system, then it is not unreasonable toexpect such individuals to become alienated andlose their commitment to the goals of graduating18from high school and pursuing more education (p.385).Personal characteristics such as poor self-esteem(Karp, 1988), weak socialization and external locus ofcontrol (Ekstrom et al., 1986) have been shown tocorrelate with dropping out. Early school leaversagree that "people think they are losers" (Karp, 1988,p. 26). It remains unclear, however, whether thesecharacteristics are inherent in the student or whetheror to what degree they are a product of the schoolexperiences. Wehlage (1989) describes both social andacademic isolation as critical factors to be counteredfor school membership, which he defines as a reciprocalrelationship between students and adults bonding thestudent to the school. The feeling of isolation may beengendered or countered by teaching staff or curriculumand consequently cannot be said to be an intrinsicpsychological characteristic. Similarly, self-esteem,self-concept and locus of control are dependent fortheir meaning at least to some extent upon theinteraction of the school, the individual, the home andthe community.19Consequences of Early School LeavingSome of the literature on early school leaving hasrecently undergone a shift in nomenclature which maysignal a change in perception of the problem ofstudents who leave school before graduation. Thepotential dropout is at this time commonly referred toas a student "at risk" (Lakebrink, 1989; Wehlage etal., 1989). This literature addresses the early schoolleaving issue from the perspective of the social andeconomic consequences to society as a whole if largenumbers of students do not complete high school. Hahn(1987) stated that the consensus of well-meaningcitizens from all levels of government, conferences,committees and studies across the United States wasthat "excessively high dropout rates threaten thenation's productivity and represent a tragic waste ofyoung lives" (p. 256).^Those early school leavers areviewed as "a financial drain on society; they detractfrom the overall well being of a competitive economicsystem when they become unemployable, under-employed ordependent upon welfare and other social services"(Wehlage, 1989, p.1). In a similar vein, Kronick &Hargis (1990) point out that dropouts impact on manyagencies including welfare, mental health, corrections20as well as education. They further state that "Ifeducation could effectively deal with these students,welfare, mental health and correctional systems wouldnot have to" (p. 61). Similarly, in the province ofBritish Columbia the Ministry of Advanced Education,Training and Technology (Rubenson, 1992) stated, "Thecontinuing high wastage in high schools is alarming.This represents a loss of human capital that is one ofthe major weaknesses in the effort to achieve acompetitive economy in British Columbia"(p. 27).Two recent studies in particular, however, do notconcur with the supposition that dropping out leads tonegative individual and social consequences. McCaul(1989) used the data from the High School and Beyondlongitudinal data source to examine those who droppedout and those who graduated but did not go on topostsecondary education. Small but statisticallysignificant differences existed between the two groupsin alcohol use, periods of unemployment and worksatisfaction. The results did not confirm thatdropping out leads to wide discrepancies in wages orself-esteem. McCaul suggested that given the smalldifferences on some of the measures the real drawbackto important life adjustment may not be dropping out of21high school but rather the lack of any post-secondaryeducation. Jarjoura (1990) used data from theLongitudinal Survey of Youth to examine the associationof dropping out of high school and later involvement incrime. He found that dropping out of high school doesnot increase the likelihood of criminality. His studysupports the position that the observed dropout-delinquency relationship is largely due to otherfactors which have been  neglected as variables in otherstudies, primarily measures of prior misconduct anddemographic characteristics.Programs to Prevent Early School LeavingThe education system responded at all levels tothe consensus that too many students leave high schoolwithout graduating by establishing a myriad of programsto prevent or to remediate early school leaving. Mostof the programs at the school level are developed inresponse to a perceived need for a specific population.Of the programs designed to prevent early schoolleaving, many are implemented for the entire gradelevel population, not just for the students who havebeen identified as at risk of dropping out. For22example, some schools perceived a need for anorientation program for students entering the school inorder to initiate them into the climate of the schooland to facilitate their integration into the desiredaspects of the school culture (Santorufo, 1991). Theadministration believed that this program wasinstrumental in preventing dropouts by reducing thestudents' sense of alienation, which the literatureindicates is closely associated with dropping out ofsecondary school (Wehlage et al., 1989).Some secondary schools have restructured entrylevel classes into interdisciplinary teams rather thantraditional subject departments in response to middleschool theorists and writers hypotheses that thisstructure would enable students to form stronger socialbonds with their peers, teachers and the school.Arhar, (1990) did a study which matched a national U.S.sample of teamed and non-teamed schools and found thatteaming does have a positive effect on social bondingand that the greatest effect was on bonding to teachersand somewhat less to peers and to the school. Otherintervention programs were designed to enhance academicperformance, as measured by grade point average (GPA),school attendance and school behavior. Pipal (1991)23reported that both the literature and her researchshowed that such intervention programs can positivelyaffect GPA and attendance. Carter (1990) surveyedMichigan school programs for children at risk and foundthat most schools provided remedial instruction,vocational, and substance abuse programs. In addition,they had implemented attendance policies and proceduresdesigned to monitor and curb truancy at an early stage.At the provincial governmental level, the Ministryof Education in British Columbia reacted to theinformation in the Sullivan report on the RoyalCommission on Education by setting up collaborativeteams of educators from the Ministry, school districtsand schools to improve the perceived relevance ofeducation to the individual learner. Thiscollaboration resulted in the broad educationalparadigm shift known throughout the province as theYear 2000. In addition, gifted learners and FirstNations learners were specifically targeted forattention to make their programs more meaningful.At the district level, the Ministry of EducationAnnual Report (1991) stated that teachers in two B.C.school districts implemented specific measures to makeschool more relevant to Grade 8 students who were2 4identified by a questionnaire as at risk of droppingout. The report stated that fewer students withdrewfrom the schools using these measures and that theprogram was to be expanded to other schools. MostB.C. districts offered alternate programs, usuallyhoused separately from the regular school, for variouspopulations such as students who cannot meet thebehavioral standards in the regular school, teenagemothers, and young adults who wish to return to school.The federal government, while not directlyresponsible for education, funded district Stay-In-School initiatives through the Ministry of Educationand Ministry Responsible for Human Rights andMulticulturalism (1992) to alleviate unemployment andunderemployment among the young adults.Re-entry ProgramsThere is some blurring of boundaries between re-entry programs which are designed to facilitate thereturn to the school system of a person classified as adropout, and alternate or alternative programs orschools which are designed primarily to preventstudents currently enrolled from dropping out before25graduation. It does not appear from the literaturethat the school districts in which these alternateprograms are based have clearly defined roles ormandates for these schools or programs. In most casesthe programs have arisen out of need to provide forstudents who are unable to function in the regularschool setting. These students, however, are seldomclearly described other than being referred to as being"at risk" by whatever criteria the district chooses tomeasure that quality. In many instances, the studentenrolled in the alternate program has effectivelywithdrawn from the regular educational program, andaccording to Solomon (1989) might best be defined as adropout.Alternative schools provide a wide variety ofprograms and teaching strategies. Traditionally,alternative schools or programs have had a heavilyvocational outlook in their programming in an effort toprepare the young people for the job market. Zakowski(1990) found that approximately 18% more studentsdesignated as "at risk" stayed in the alternativeschool and completed high school requirements whileenrolled in vocational education than those who werenot enrolled in vocational education. Swopes (1986)26surveyed alternative programs in the Missouri Valleyarea of Nebraska and found that three-fourths of theschools claimed to be student-centered withindividualized instruction.The co-researchers in this study were all enrolledin an alternate program which shall be referred to inthis study as the "Amigos" program. The Amigos programis operated under the jurisdiction of CommunityEducation in one of the Greater Vancouver RegionalDistricts. At the time of the interviews, the programhad operated for two years. Amigos developed as anoff-shoot of another alternate program which had as itsmandate teaching life skills to young people who haveleft the mainstream school system. The mandate of theAmigos program is to offer an academic program to olderstudents who may have dropped out or who are unable tocontinue their education in the regular school system.At the time of the interviews there were 50 activeparticipants in the program who attended classes on asemi-regular basis at the school site. An additional15 to 20 registered students do not attend classes forreasons such as child care problems, but they do comein periodically to have work checked and to receive anew batch of assignments.27Students may be recommended to the program by afriend, counsellor or street worker. The potentialstudent is interviewed and the Amigos program teachermay check with the referring agency or previous schoolcounsellors to find out the background of the youngperson. If behavior issues were a major problem inprevious school settings, the potential student may beasked to go on a waiting list until the teachers areassured that he or she will not be bringing thosebehaviors into the program. All students are asked tosign a contract adhering to the rules and regulationsof the school. Students may be dismissed or put onprobation for breaking the rules. Probation involvesloss of privileges such as chosing working times and arequirement to attend at the least desirable times,from noon to 4 p.m. five days a week.This program was designed to provide an academiceducation to motivated students by providing them withvery clear boundaries, achievable goals and virtuallyunlimited support.Program EvaluationTo date, however, very few of the programsdesigned to prevent early school leaving or tofacilitate returning to complete secondary schoolrequirements have been extensively described orindependently evaluated. Those which have beendescribed and evaluated have had mixed reviews. Bell(1990) evaluated an alternate school program designedto prevent dropout of at-risk students who returned totheir home schools. The students who received thisprogram improved in attendance and in measures ofattitude and achievement. A greater proportion of theprogram participants remained in school after theyreturned to their home schools than those who had notreceived the program. In the province of BritishColumbia, Mutadi (1990) explored three treatmentprograms on potential early school leavers and foundthat these programs did impact favorably on the dropoutrates.Other programs were not evaluated as favorably.For example, Kiick (1991) reported that for eighthgraders who had repeated one or more grades in aMississippi school system there was a significantnegative relationship between attending a selected282 9alternative school and program remaining in school.Outlaw (1989/1990) conducted a study of theeffectiveness of dropout prevention programs at fiveCalifornia high schools. She concluded that becausethe programs were not effective in all of the schools,ethnicity, different school cultures and unevenadministration of the programs made a difference in theeffectiveness of the programs.Implementation of district-wide programs at theschool level has had other negative ramifications.Seeley (1990) concluded in his longitudinal study of aFlorida dropout prevention program that inadequateadministration of the programs at the school level mayhave contributed to the totally unexpected result thatthe dropout rate was significantly higher in theexperimental group which had received academicenhancement, counselling and career awareness studythan in the control group which had not received anytreatment at all.In studying the vast array of programs designed tohelp students at risk, Mann (1986) concluded that:...practical improvements depend on knowing whatwas done to whom, but (a) virtually everything isbeing done and (b) at the delivery level we cannot30yet tell to whom or with what effect. Thus we aredoing a lot and learning a little about themultiple palliatives (p. 311).It would seem therefore that before developingadditional delivery programs or even assessing currentprograms, a closer look might be taken at the "whom",the individual to whom all the attention is being paid,the adolescent early school leaver. As an adolescenteach of these young people had undergone significantdevelopmental changes prior to and subsequent todropping out of school. Erikson (1968) characterizedthis psychosocial developmental period as a time ofidentity crisis which he described as the following:Like a trapeze artist, the young person in themiddle of vigorous motion must let go of his safehold on childhood and reach out for a firm grasp onadulthood, depending for a breathless interval onthe relatedness between the past and the future, andon the reliability of those he must let go of, andthose who will "receive him" (Erikson, 1964, p. 90).Kegan (1982), whose work incorporates and expands uponthe work of Erikson, Kohlberg and especially Piaget,describes the adolescent from a constructivist-developmental perspective as a "self" evolving from31embeddedness in the culture of imperial stage self-sufficiency, competence and role differentiation intothe culture of the interpersonal stage of sharedsubjective experience and mutually attunedinterpersonal relationships. This individualconstructs meaning from the context of the school, thecommunity, the family and peers. It could be arguedthat it is the meaning that the individual makes orperceives in any situation which makes him or her "atrisk" of dropping out of school while another student,with much the same background and situation is able tostay in school and graduate.It is clear from the literature that there existsa need for research which will explore therelationships among the factors associated withdropping out, not simply on a descriptive basis, butrather from the experiential perspective of themeaning-making system of the individual.III METHODOLOGYCo-researchers The volunteer co-researchers in this study weresolicited from an alternate secondary school program inthe Greater Vancouver region. Twelve students enrolledin the program were contacted and interviewed. Table 1displays the demographic information for the sample.The co-researchers ranged from 3 months to 5 yearsabsence from regular secondary school programs.The purpose of this alternate setting was to offeran academic program to older students who may havedropped out or who were unable to complete theireducation in mainstream school setting. Fifty studentswere enrolled in the program. The students wererecommended to the program by friends, counsellors orstreet workers. They were selected to participate inthe alternate program through an interview and testprocess. The criteria for selection was centered upona demonstration of commitment to completing the programwhich involved the potential student taking a test andreturning at an appointed time to discuss the results.Students further demonstrated their commitment by32Table 1Demographic Information^Gender^Aggmale^n=513^14^15^16^17^18^19female n=7Age at DropoutMale - - 1 3 1Female 1 2 3 1 -Age at ReturnMale - - - 1 - 1 3Female - - 1 0 4 1 133signing a behavioral contract. Each student workedindependently and instruction took place only on anindividual tutorial basis.Methodological ApproachAs the fundamental purpose of this research was toexplore the experience of early school leavers, aphenomenological/hermeneutical methodology was chosenas the appropriate methodology. Although phenomenologyis not easily defined and may be best considered in a"thick description" (Van Hestern, 1986) as is oftenused in qualitative research terminology, this studyused as a guide Suransky's (1982) description:The phenomenological task, therefore, lies both inthe process of description and critical reflectionwhere the primacy of experience holds sway, and inthe attempt to penetrate to the essence of aphenomenon to the core themes that underlie whatis being observed (p. 36).The phenomenological approach in its purest formassumes a presuppositionless approach to the datainterpretation. An hermeneutical methodology (Kvale,1983), while phenomenological in nature, allows for the34interpretation of data within a context or within apattern of events or within a theoretical framework(Young, 1986). Given the essential contextualframework for this study, i.e. the school system, andthe adolescent developmental stage, the hermeneuticalapproach was chosen.Data CollectionThe staff of the alternate program were informedthat the researcher wished to interview and audio-tapestudents concerning their experience of early schoolleaving. The researcher explained that the study wasbeing conducted in fulfillment of a University ofBritish Columbia M.A. thesis requirement in CounsellingPsychology chaired by Dr. N. Amundson. The staff werefurther informed that the neither the study nor theresearcher had any direct involvement with the schooldistrict although district approval for the study hadbeen granted. The staff were asked to mention thisinformation to the students and to ask their permissionfor the researcher to contact them.The author contacted potential co-researchers andrestated the information given to the staff. In3536addition, the researcher explained that the interviewwould be about 1 hour in length and tape-recorded. Thepotential co-researchers were informed that theirconfidentiality would be protected in that they wouldnot be personally identified in the thesis and that theinterview would be used for research purposes only.They were also informed that they could refuse toanswer any question and they could withdraw fromparticipation at any time.Interview times were arranged and the co-researchers were given a consent form to bring signedto the interview. Parent signatures were requested andobtained from co-researchers who were under 16 years ofage. Each co-researcher or responsible parent orguardian was given a copy of the consent form. (Referto Appendix A for a copy of the consent form).Pilot InterviewTwo pilot interviews were conducted to assess theclarity and effectiveness of the interview questions aswell as to allow the interviewer an opportunity tofamiliarize herself with the scope and flow of theinterview responses. (Refer to Appendix B for adescription of the pilot interview process andinterview questions.) The pilot interview data werenot included with the data analysis for this study.Co-Researcher InterviewsAll interviews took place in an interview room ata site operated by the University of British Columbiafor counsellor training. This site was chosen tostandardize the interview settings and to provide aneutral, private, safe and relaxed but seriousenvironment.Each interview began with the researchercollecting the consent form signed by the parent orguardian if the co-researcher was under 16 years of ageor signed by the interviewee if he or she was olderthan 16. A random two-digit number was assigned toeach interview and that number was marked on the topleft corner of the consent form, on the blank paper tobe used for the life-line drawing and on the audiotape. The recording was started with an identificationof the date of the interview and a restatement of the3738assigned random number. The researcher then asked thefollowing questions:1. Could you tell me when it was that you firstthought about leaving school?2. Could you make a life-line drawing from justbefore you first thought about dropping out untilright now?3. Each person considers leaving school in aunique way. Could you tell me your story,describing what happened, what you did and thethoughts and feelings you experienced?4. Are you at this time considering leavingschool? What would have to happen for this totake place or not take place?5. Is there any person who stands out in yourschool career? Has this person affected yourdecision to leave or remain in school?6. What are your expectations about your lifefrom this point on?The co-researchers were allowed to answer with asmuch or as little detail as they wished. Theresearcher interrupted only for clarification of eitherthe situation, the context or the feelings described bythe interviewee. Although a warm, encouraging tone was3 9employed, care was taken not to influence the co-researcher's statements. Preceding the secondquestion, the co-researchers were handed a pencil and ablank sheet of paper on which the researcher placed therandom co-researcher identification number. If the co-researchers were unfamiliar with the concept of drawinga life-line, the researcher clarified this question.Each interview concluded with the statement thatthe co-researcher would be contacted at a later dateand a summary of the interview would be read. The co-researcher was assured that he or she could add orchange anything which the researcher had mis-interpreted at that time.Data AnalysisThe data were analyzed using the originaltranscribed taped interview protocol according to thefollowing outline:1. Validity check of protocols by telephoneinterview using protocol summaries.2. A) Establishing categories of events relatedto early school leaving and of events relatedto returning to current alternate education40programme.B) Validity check of established categories.3. A) Categorizing meaning units of each co-researcher transcript using the categoryrating sheet.B) Reliability check of individual ratingsheets.C) Sorting meaning units into categories.D) Inter-rater reliability check of sorting.4. Life-line drawing analysis.5. Holistic description of the experience.6. Analysis of protocols within a theoreticalcontext.1. Protocol validity check Summaries were made of the transcribed interviews.Every effort was made to preserve the essentialelements of the original transcript. In addition tocondensing the narratives as accurately as possible,particular care was taken not to exaggerate or tominimize the feelings expressed by the co-researchers.The author attempted to validate the protocols of everyco-researcher but two could not be contacted. Theremaining 10 (83% of the sample) were read thecondensed version of the transcript. The researcher41read the summaries slowly and frequently interruptedthe narrative to ask if the individual found thesummary accurate to that point or if he or she wantedto add to or change any part of the narrative. All ofthe co-researchers found the narrative to be accurate.Their comments included statements such as "yeah,that's cool", "yes, that's right", "you got it o.k."and "that's exactly it". (Refer to Appendix C for asample of the interview summary.) One individual,however, wished to add that her home situation had verymuch improved since the interview. A second co-researcher related that she had completed anotheracademic course and was going to summer school.2. A) Establishment of categories of situations relating to early school leavingEach original transcript was read several timesand lists were made and refined of situations which theco-researchers related to early school leaving or toreturning to the alternate education programme in whichthey were currently enrolled. These refined lists wereestablished as categories. Initially it wasanticipated that the categories related to early schoolleaving and those related to the return to theeducation system would differ considerably and that two42separate sets of categories would be found. Mostcategories, however, were present on both liststherefore the researcher combined both lists into onecomprehensive set of categories.2 B) Category validity checkA colleague familiar with the research methodemployed in this project initially read two of thetranscripts and was instructed to list and categorizeall of the situations in the tape transcripts which inher judgement the co-researcher associated with earlyschool leaving. These categories were then comparedwith the categories established by the researcher.From the two transcripts the checker derived ninecategories which closely matched or were identical tothe categories established by the researcher. Afterreading additional transcripts and discussion with theresearcher, the checker agreed upon an additional eightcategories. These included a refinement of thechecker's initial category designated "school" intofive categories; school personnel, attendance, schoolperformance and involvement, perceived reason for earlyschool leaving, and perceived reason for returning tothe education system. The researcher also agreed thatthe established categories of finance and employment43were too closely related in many contexts to beconsidered separate categories and so they werecombined into one category named economics andemployment. A rating sheet was developed to analyzethe transcript of each co-researcher. (Refer toAppendix D for a copy of the category rating sheet.)2. C) Rating sheet analysis Each protocol was divided into "meaning units" orsegments which were designated as statements. As muchas possible, a meaning unit would encompass an entirestatement made by the co-researcher either in responseto a question posed by the interviewer or along asingle train of thought initiated by the co-researcher.Each statement was numbered chronologically and furtherdesignated with the letter "R" if it referred tosituations leading up to or directly related to thestudent's return to the education system via theprogramme in which he or she was currently enrolled.The identity number assigned to each co-researcher wasentered on the rating sheet Each statement was thenexamined to determine which of the establishedcategories it encompassed and whether or not thereported situation, from the co-researchers point ofview, worked for or against keeping the student in the44education system. A meaning unit statement might referto only one category or to as many as five categories.If the statement was judged to be working towardkeeping the individual in school, a check mark wasplaced in the appropriate category box. If thestatement was judged to work against keeping thestudent in school an "x" was placed in the categorybox.2. D) Reliability check of rating sheets A research colleague was instructed to take eachof the numbered meaning unit statements and categorizethem on the established rating sheet in the same mannerand using the same criteria as had the researcher. Theresults of both rating sheets were compared and anydiscrepancies were discussed and resolved. Themodified result became known as the checked ratingsheets. All references to rating sheet data were takenfrom the checked rating sheets. (Refer to Appendix Efor a copy of a checked category rating sheet.)2. E) Establishing category contentSegments of each meaning unit were sorted intocategories. Any single segment might be placed in oneor several categories depending on the content. Eachcategory was analyzed separately to uncover the depth45and breadth of its impact upon the lives of thoseinvolved in this study.3. Co-researcher life-line analysis All of the life-line drawings were reproducedapproximately to scale on graph paper to counteract theeffects of a six-month drawing in comparison to a six-year drawing on the same one-page protocol. Differentcolors were used for each co-researcher. The age,approximate date of dropping out and date of return tothe Amigos program were noted on the scale drawing aswell. The scale drawing was analyzed for patternsrelating to leaving school and to returning to school.4. Holistic descriptionThe rating sheets, the category analyses and thelife line drawings were combined to provided a writtendescription of the experience of early school leaving.This description focused upon the dynamic aspects ofthe experience including the situations leading up todropping out, the process of leaving school, theexperience of being an early school leaver and thereturn to the education system via the Amigos program.5. Theoretical analyses of protocols In keeping with the hermeneutical methodology chosenfor this study, the data were analyzed primarily within46the context of developmental theory. The theoreticalframeworks used for the analyses were derived by EricErickson (1963; 1968) and by Robert Kegan (1982) whoseconstructive-developmental theory of self developmentis derived in part from the theories of Erickson,Piaget (1969), and Kohlberg (1969).IV RESULTSThe data analyses will be presented in two parts.First, based upon the life-line drawings and the co-researchers' responses to interview questions, earlyschool leavers will be described holisticly in dynamicprogression from the earliest antecedents, to droppingout, to their present enrollment in an alternateprogram. Following the path that the dropout takes inleaving school is seen as particularly important inlight of the dearth of literature in this area and alsobecause it is recognized as being important in planningappropriate interventions at the school level (Kronick& Hargis, 1990). In addition, Appendix C outlines inthe summary statement the progression of one individualco-researcher along the path to dropping out. Second,each of the categories of situations relating to earlyschool leaving or returning to the school system willbe described and rated from the perspective of the co-researcher as either enhancing or detracting fromstaying in school.4748Dynamic Progression of the ExperienceThe following aspects of the experience of earlyschool leaving and subsequent return to an alternateprogram will be presented and discussed: long-term andimmediate antecedents to leaving, the leaving process,the experience of being a dropout, the antecedents toreturning to their current educational program, theexperience in Amigos, and perceptions of the future.Long-term and Immediate Antecedents to EarlySchool LeavingAll but one of the students involved in this studyexpressed experiencing family relationship stressesranging from feelings of being misunderstood to beingphysically abused. Many of the difficulties were of along-standing nature such as constant fighting andbickering with a parent, in particular an abusive oralcoholic father or step-father. Three co-researchersexpressed feeling rejected because a sibling was thepreferred child, because the parents wanted to move yetagain to a foreign country or because the mother founda boyfriend. Other family stresses had a moreimmediate connection with leaving school. Five co-researchers reported either leaving or being kicked out49of home. Two co-researchers experienced a death ofmembers of their immediate family.In summary, during the period before dropping outof school, the co-researchers experienced bothtraumatic and general alienation or separation fromtheir parents. According to Irwin & Vaughan (1988),Steinberg & Silverberg (1986) and Simmons (1987) earlyemotional emancipation from family or significantadults can affect adolescents negatively by making themmore susceptible to negative peer influences andparticipation in unhealthy behaviors including drug andalcohol abuse. This study indicates that for thispopulation there is also an association betweenseparation from the parents and early school leaving.Every one of the co-researchers expresseddissatisfaction with some aspect of the school system.Five of the co-researchers described difficulties withthe teaching staff. Their most prevalent report wasthe "teachers just don't care", didn't help them whenthey needed it and didn't understand the students. Inaddition, nine of the interviewees directly orindirectly expressed having had problems with theschool work. Only one person reported repeating agrade although two others expressed bewilderment about50why they had been promoted to the next grade when intheir opinion they had not passed any classes at theprevious grade level. All but one student reportedskipping classes or not attending school. Three co-researchers in particular expressed a fondness forelementary school that they did not feel for thesecondary school. One expressed feeling resentmentafter going from the oldest in the school at Grade 7 tobeing the baby again in Grade 8 and the other twoexpressed difficulty in adjusting to the multipleteachers and large, impersonal classrooms. Thesefindings support Simmons (1987) contention thattransition from elementary school, to secondary schoolmay be made more difficult for some because of theirconcurrent adolescent development. This study alsosupports previous research (Newmann, 1989) showingstudent alienation from schools and teachers may beassociated with early school leaving.Peers played an ambivalent role in the time frameleading up to dropping out. On the one hand, they werereported by four co-researchers as frequentlyassociated with if not instrumental in the co-researcher's skipping classes; on the other hand,three co-researchers mentioned that the only reason51they came to school at all was to "hang out" with theirfriends. Intense relationships with peer groups,characterized by reports of prolonged daily contactwithin the peer group and statements of the importanceof their group, were evident in all but one co-researcher.No interview question asked about the student'sinvolvement with drugs and alcohol but situationsinvolving either drugs or  alcohol were mentioned inassociation with dropping out by all but three of theco-researchers. Five co-researchers reported usingdrugs or alcohol frequently during the time periodbefore dropping out of school. Also mentioned weredrug and alcohol use by parents, grandparents, peersand other adults living in the home. One individualreferred to being involved personally in selling drugs.Drug use frequently either precipitated or wasmentioned in association with leaving home.The co-researchers expressed negative self conceptin the period before leaving school. Individualsexpressed feelings of worthlessness, insanity andrebelliousness. Three co-researchers expressed feelingrejected by parents, peers or teachers. Three young52people said if others didn't care about them then whyshould they care about themselves.The three co-researchers who used the word "alone"to describe how they felt during this time period, andothers who expressed rejection, worthlessness andinsanity all give voice to an overwhelming sense ofisolation and alienation experienced by these youngpeople which was only partially alleviated by theirpeer group participation.The Process of Dropping Out Only 5 of the 12 students in this study describedformally withdrawing from the regular school system.Others withdrew from the regular classroom setting withthe intention of continuing their education in anothersetting such as taking correspondence courses at homeor enrolling in an alternate school or program. Forall but one student, the withdrawal process began withskipping classes or staying away from school altogetherfor a period of time.The process of gradual withdrawal from school byskipping suggests that there is a gradual weakening ofthe "magnetic attraction" between the student and theschool which takes place at this time for somestudents.53Of the seven young women interviewed for thisstudy, five began seriously thinking about leavingschool or began skipping out of class or school duringGrade 9. Of the remaining two female co-researchers,one began the leaving process in Grade 8 and the otherin Grade 10. Of the young men, only one began the dropout process in Grade 9, two began in Grade 10 and onein Grade 12. The difference in dropout age between theyoung men and the young women suggests that there maybe developmental issues underlying early schoolleaving. These issues will be examined in detail inthe discussion section of this study.The Experience of Being a Dropout While most of the co-researchers reported thatthey had "dropped out" of school, the experience ofbeing a dropout was unique to each individual. Formost the downward trend shown in their life-linedrawings continued. Drug and alcohol problems wereexacerbated in all but two situations. Of the 12students interviewed for this study, nine reportedliving away from home as part of the experience ofbeing a dropout. Each individual described thissituation with varying degrees of negative emotionssuch as rejection, anger, resentment, and helplessness.54They lived on the street, in parks, with friends or infoster homes. Four co-researchers found employment butall of them lost the jobs within a short period oftime. All except one of the young men reportedexperiencing financial difficulties.During the dropout period the co-researcherscontinued their very strong associations with theirpeer group. In all cases this association served tomaintain the co-researcher in what they later came toregard as negative situations such as continuing toabuse drugs and alcohol, living with pimps and hookers,running with a gang, or being abused by a boyfriend.During this time five co-researchers attempted toreturn to school but were unsuccessful.What appears relevant in the co-researchers'stories relating to the time frame when they were outof school, is that dropping out of school was not somuch a change in status but rather a continuation orprogression in a negative life situation.Antecedents To Enrolling in Amigos Prior to enrolling in the alternate program inwhich they were currently registered, all but two ofthe co-researchers underwent some experience whichinitiated in one young woman's terms "cleaning up my55act". This usually involved getting off or reducingthe use of drugs or alcohol either on their own or withthe help of friends, family or programs such as A.A.All but one of the co-researchers returned totheir families and reported that some negotiation hadtaken place between them and their parents or guardiansregarding rules and behaviors.Three co-researchers attempted continue theireducation during this period. They enrolled and weresuccessful in step-up programs and other alternateschool programs.In the months prior to enrolling in Amigos mostco-researchers had undergone or were in the process ofundergoing a change in relationships with their peers.They did not "hang out" as much with a group but rathersought the companionship of specific friends. Threementioned exclusive dating relationships withindividuals who supported the co-researchers' attemptsto "straighten up" their lives. This combination ofevents usually signified the end of the "dropout" phaseand signaled the beginning of a positive turn on thelife-line drawing.56Enrolling in the Amigos ProgramThe co-researchers reported enrolling in Amigosfor several reasons. They had heard about it fromtheir friends or family member who were currentlyenroled or they knew the staff from other programs.All of the co-researchers expressed strong affiliationfor the program. They reported contentment with thestaff, particularly that they were helpful andunderstanding. They also valued the concept oflearning at their own rate and not falling behind orbeing punished for missing. Four co-researchersspecifically expressed pride in their accomplishmentsso far in the program, particularly as they felt thatthe content was academically meaningful.The return to school for this group of earlyschool leavers was contingent upon having reconciledwith their parents or guardians and disengaged fromtheir earlier peer group relationship. Chosing theAmigos program in particular was predicated upon havingfriends in the program, having teachers who understoodthem, having a meaningful curriculum and having adesire to complete Grade 12 for future economicbenefits.57perception of the FutureEach co-researcher was asked if he or she werethinking of leaving school at that particular time.They all responded very emphatically, no. In everycase, when asked how they foresaw the future unfoldingfor themselves, they began with high school graduation.After graduation, their vision was somewhat lessspecific. They spoke about careers, financialsecurity, desires for marriage and children andhappiness. Only one young person had made specificplans for realizing his goals. Two co-researchersreported that they took one day at a time and did notmake long-range plansIn summary, the co-researchers experienceddropping out of school as part of a negative, downwardtrend in their lives. They experienced the return toschool as part of an upward trend. This may be viewedas Gilligan (1987) and others (Pipp et al., 1985)suggest that the process involves a steady gain inresponsibility, dominance and independence relative tothe parents who decline in all of these dimensions.This study also suggests that in the process ofreturning to school in a self-paced program, theindividual's gains in responsibility, dominance and58independence may also be relative to correspondingteacher decline in these areas. This study also showeda process of improving relationships with mothers whowere perceived as friendly, in the process of returningto school. It is possible to view the young people whohave dropped out and returned to this program accordingto Gilligan's (1987) developmental model which is buildon the distinction between equality and attachment astwo dimensions of relationship that shape theexperience of self.It is important to note that most of the youngpeople in this study did not have fathers living in thehome or had negative male parenting. If, as issuggested by Pipp and others (1985) part of thedevelopmental process in the attachment dimension is amovement toward feelings of similarity to fathers, whoare perceived as more dominant, then these young peoplemay be delayed in this aspect of their development.The figures which follow are graphicrespresentations of the process of early school leavingand returning to an alternate program. They representthe general emotional experience, the involvement withpeer group, association with drugs and alcohol and theemotional proximity to the family.Return PeriodDropout PeriodHigh EmotionalLevelLowTimeFigure 1. Emotional Experience of Dropping Out and ReturningReturn PeriodDropout PeriodHighInvolvementLevelLowTimeFigure 2. Peer Group Involvement During Dropout and ReturnReturn Period^Dropout Period...•••■•HighAssociationLevelLowTimeFigure 3. Drug and Alcohol Association During Dropout and ReturnReturn Period^Dropout PeriodHighEmotionalProximityLevelLowTimeFigure 4. Emotional Proximity to Family During Dropout and Return63Category AnalysisEach of the tape transcripts was divided intomeaning units which were analyzed into one or more ofthe following categories: Family, Peers, Schoolpersonnel, Attendance, School performance/involvement,Drugs and alcohol, Economic/employment situation,Perception of future, Law/discipline, Physicalactivities, Medical/mental problems, Perceived reasonfor leaving the regular school system, Perceived reasonfor return to school via the Amigos program, Personinfluential in school career, Self-perception,Returning or leaving home, Other adults, Abuse,Alternate programs, and Moving to different schools.In this section each of these categories will bedescribed and the statements comprising the categorycontents will be rated according to whether thesituation contributed to leaving or to staying inschool. Many of the situations reported by the co-researchers fit into more than one category. Wherethis occurred, entries were made in all applicablecategories as the following descriptions will indicate.64Family SituationThis category included situations involvingparents, step-parents, guardians who were related tothe co-researcher, grandparents, and siblings.The relationship between these family members andthe co-researcher leading up to or at the time ofdropout was discordant. The co-researchers reportedproblems in communication with their parents, parentalrules, new step-parent or parent's new partner, drugand alcohol use by their immediate family, death of aparent or grandparent, and parental non-support foreducation.Of the 12 co-researchers, 4 lived with bothnatural parents. Two of these individuals reportedhaving received support from their parents both inwithdrawing from the regular high school and inenrolling in the alternate program. These parents alsohad reacted very strongly when they found out theirsons had skipped classes. Both young men also reporteda strong bond with their fathers who had steady blue-collar jobs. The other two young women had fatherswhom they reported as alcoholic. One young womanreported that her mother and grandfather werealcoholics as well.65Two co-researchers reported living with mother andstep-father. In both cases the male parent wasperceived by the co-researcher as ineffectual duringthe period prior to dropping out. In the periodleading up to the co-researchers' return to school,these male parents were seen as supportive.One young man reported being adopted when he wasfour years old. At the time of the interview hisparents had moved to Saudi Arabia. Although hereported chosing to remain behind, the co-researcherreported feeling abandoned again.Three co-researchers lived with their mother aloneor with mother and her boyfriend. In all three casesthe mother worked graveyard shifts and moving toaccommodate her employment was a common occurrence.The mother's boyfriend was also a problem for one ofthe co-researchers.Two of the interviewees did not live with eithernatural parent. One had been taken from her mother tolive with her uncle in Canada so that her mother wouldhave one fewer person to support. The other youngwoman had lost her mother to drugs and at the time ofthe interview lived with her mother's previousboyfriend and his girlfriend who was a heroin addict.66The two following tables represent the ratings ofthe situations included in the family situationscategory from the perspective of the co-researcher.Table 2 presents the frequency of family situationswhich co-researchers rated as contributing to earlyschool leaving. Table 3 presents family situationswhich they viewed as contributing to staying in school.67Table 2Family Situations Contributing to Early School Leavingn^Family situation^11^conflict with parent, step-parent or guardian9^leaving home6^alcoholic/drug-addicted parent(s) or guardian4^moving frequently3^financial hardship3^abusive parent, step-parent or guardian2^death of family member2^parents left school before graduation2^sibling dropout1^sibling drug use1^being adoptedTable 3Family Situations Contributing to Continuing Educationn^Family situation^10^improved relationships with parent(s)8^moved back home2^parents supported school2^good relationship with father2^parent/guardian joined A.A./N.A.6869Peer Group Situations Peer relationships played an extensive role in thecontext of early school leaving. The co-researchersreported that as they entered high school they activelysought or "fell in with" a group. Some of the groupmemberships were loosely defined by academicachievement. One young man reported identifying withthe group that was from his standpoint singled outnegatively by the administrators. "Usually the betterkids with the better marks, the sucks, you know, they(administrators) let them go easy and other kids thatare having a bit more trouble, they pick on them."Some of the academic achievement groupings began inelementary school. One co-researcher commented:...some of the kids in our (Grade 7) class weregood in math. They came to high school and theywere good in math. I wasn't one of them. And myfriends that I hung around with in Grade 7, noneof them were good. All my friends that I hungaround with in Grade 7 now have either dropped outor are in Amigos or other alternate schools.Group membership or affiliation appeared to be ofparamount importance for both young men and young womenduring the transition from elementary school, although70they expressed it somewhat differently. The female co-researchers frequently expressed this need foraffiliation with the group as wanting to be in the "ingroup" or falling in with a group. As one young womanstated:I was hanging around there. I wanted to be with,you know, the "in crowd" because they were all,you know, wearing nice clothes and having niceboyfriends and cars and all that, and I thoughtthat looks like so much fun, and so I got intothat.The young women also reported that the friendsunderstood, cared and helped them with their problems.Most young men reported "hanging out" with a group offriends, an activity which did not appear to have aformal or stated purpose other than maintainingmembership in the group.Maintaining group membership precipitatedinvolvement in other activities such as skippingclasses, ignoring homework, using drugs and alcohol andbreaking family curfew rules. While the activitiesengaged in were similar, there appeared to be generaldifferences in the meaning of these activities derivedby the young women and the young men. The young men71experienced the group affiliation as a kind of autonomyor separation. As one young man who had been heavilyinto both using and selling drugs reported, "Afterhanging out with the people I was hanging out with, itwas hard for me at 13 to say, 'Sorry guys. I got to gohome for my curfew at 9 o'clock.' It was not cool,man." The perceived consequence of meeting the familyrules was non-acceptance by this peer group who wereconsiderably older than he was. The actual consequenceof group membership was separation from his family.Exclusion from group membership had painfulconsequences for one young man whose stepfather calledhim a coward for "not fighting the other kids when theywanted me to fight them, which was quite often." Hehad failed to attain group acceptance and he had failedto attain parental approval. He acted out his anger by"lighting fires, shoplifting getting into trouble andangering people."The young women in general used the groupaffiliation for supportive relationships. The desirefor group affiliation lead one young woman to fall inwith a "bunch of new people (who) skipped school anddid things." She ran away from home and met "a bunchof people that would take care of me...male and female72drug dealers, pimps and car thieves (who were) all hardcore, looking out for Number 1 and (who would) demolishanybody that gets in their way." She did not appearaware of the contradiction in the statement.An analysis of the co-researchers' statementssuggests that prior to returning to school via theAmigos program, most co-researchers underwent a changein peer relationships. Six of the female co-researchers had left the group that they had beeninvolved with doing drugs or alcohol or skippingschool, and had formed close relationships with a fewgood friends. Three of these women also reportedhaving an exclusive relationship with a young man andassociated more with his friends than with other femalefriends. Two of the five male co-researchersexperienced a change in group affiliation similar tothat experienced by the female co-researchers. Theremaining three young men involved in this studyappeared to experience group affiliation prior toreturning to the Amigos program and at the time of theinterview in much the same as they had before theydropped out. Two still hung out and did drugsoccasionally and the third "just hung around with hisfriends because it was a social thing." The co-73researchers of both sexes who moved away from the groupalso returned to a closer relationship with one or bothof their parents, step-parents or guardians.The two following tables represent the ratings ofthe situations included in the peer group situationscategory from the perspective of the co-researcher.Table 4 presents the frequency of peer group situationswhich co-researchers rated as contributing to earlyschool leaving. Table 5 presents peer group situationswhich they viewed as contributing to staying in orreturning to school.School Personnel Eleven of the 12 co-researchers reported negativefeelings toward their teachers or administrators duringthe period immediately before or at the time of leavingschool. Most felt that teachers "didn't care" or"didn't understand". They also expressed resentment atthe authority wielded by the teachers andadministrators and by the reluctance or inability onthe part of teachers to help when the student wasexperiencing difficulties. As one young womanreported:...the teachers never had time for their students.They always said go for the tutor. And then whenTable 4Peer Group Situations Contributing to School LeavingD^Peer group situations^11^intense peer relationships8^members skipped school8^members used drugs and/or alcohol extensively3^members actively involved in crimes3^friends left home3^members achieved poor grades2^members were older1^members were status conscious1^peers were abusive74Table 5Peer Group Situations Contributing to ContinuingEducationn^Peer group situations8^reduced involvement with group5^new friends4^friends enrolled in Amigos program3^friends at school cared2^friends reducing drug use7576you went for the tutor you had this teenyboppertutor that was more interested in their hair ortheir boyfriend or the date or their clothes. SoI dropped out of that. I said, 'No tutors forme.' I said, 'I need help.' and they said , 'Wellthere's others who need help too, more than youdo.' And I guess they were just basically sayingyou don't want me here. So I never showed up forclasses.Once again, the co-researchers did not make theconnection between their absenteeism and theirinability to understand the class work. They also didnot see the absentee situation and the resultingacademic difficulty from the school personnel's pointof view. As one young man reported, "Teachers, youasked them for help and they look at you as if you area retard and don't help you. In regular schoolteachers get paid to do not much of anything except toplay baby-sitter." One young man expressed resentmentat being "looked down upon because of my financialsituation and who I am."Not all problems with teachers began in secondaryschool. One female co-researcher reported being inyelling matches with her Grade 4 teacher. Another77young man stole the teacher's purse because he didn'tlike her.Only one co-researcher expressed generallypositive comments about her teachers during the earlyhigh school period. She felt close to her teachers andthought that they had been nice to her. This youngwoman reported these positive feelings in the contextof having moved frequently and having to makeadjustments to new schools, new teachers and newclassmates. It would appear that the teachers were theconstant caring figures in the unsettled sea ofchanging homes, schools and friends. A second co-researcher expressed general acceptance of his teachersand described two teachers who were exceptional, onewho did not make a fool of him when he came to classunder the influence of drugs and another who taught himto ask questions when he did not know the answer. Athird co-researcher reported difficulties with olderteachers but got along better with younger teacherswhom she felt understood her better.One of the most frequently mentioned reasons forreturning to the Amigos program and for remaining inschool was the perceived difference between thealternate school staff and the regular school teachers78and administrators. The co-researchers reported that"They inspired me.", "You can talk to them if you haveany problem.", "They take time out. Like if you haveproblems, they'll work something out that will make iteasier for you."AttendanceOnly one co-researcher did not mention either inclass or in school attendance during the interview.For the other eleven co-researches, skipping classes orwhole days of school was indicated in the time frameprior to dropping out. For eight of these students itwas part of the group affiliation that they skip outwith the rest of the group. Extensive skipping wasprecipitated for one student by a crisis, a death inthe family, and for another student by the extendedabsence by the parents. One young man reported thatwhen he had been caught skipping his father became veryangry so the student did not skip anymore.Paradoxically two of the co-researchers felt thatschool personnel didn't care because they didn't catchthem fast enough when they skipped out. As one of themstated:The thing that's wrong with this school is thatwhen you skip out they don't catch you. It took79them three months to catch on I wasn't evenarriving at some of my classes and then after thatthey put me on skip slips for two weeks and I'dstill skip in those two weeks.One co-researcher stated the belief that he shouldbe able to go to the classes he wanted to because itwas his education, not the teachers'.School Performance and Involvement.Eight of the 12 co-researchers commented on theirelementary schools. Half of them reported that theyhad moved around a lot and had gone to as many as 12elementary schools. They expressed dislike, resentmentor anger around the discontinuity they experienced.One co-researcher also expressed some enjoyment atmeeting new teachers and classmates. Three co-researchers reported liking their elementary schoolsparticularly having only one or two teachers each year,and having small classes with the same students for thewhole year. Two co-researchers reported havingdifficulty with class work as early as in the primarygrades. One said that he was "just lazy andundisciplined"; the other reported that "they justkept pushing me ahead. I guess they didn't want me."80The transition between elementary and secondaryschool engendered performance and involvementdifficulties for several co-researchers. As one youngwoman reported:...if you go from Grade 7, from a classroomenvironment where it's one classroom with 25 kidsand one teacher and that's where you're taught allday long, and then you go to a school like thiswhere it's enormous and that you've got 30 to 35kids in the class and you have eight differentteachers in a week, that's pretty stressful.Poor school achievement was mentioned inconjunction with dropping out by all but one of the co-researchers. Several co-researchers expressedbewilderment as to why they had been passed in Grades8, 9 or 10 when in their own minds they had clearlyfailed the year and had already dropped out. Onestudent had been told that he was to repeat Grade 9 forthe third time and arrived at school in Septemberprogrammed for Grade 10. One month later he wasdevastated as he was returned to Grade 9. Six of theco-researchers reported generally poor marks, havingtrouble with classes and passing only one or twocourses prior to dropping out. During the same time81frame, one co-researcher expressed the desire to getgood grades, to learn something and to retain theknowledge.Many co-researchers made general statements aboutschool. Three reported disliking or hating school andone student said that after 15 years of schools, he wasfed up and would rather take correspondence or go tonight school. Two co-researchers reported being boredand another that he didn't like switching classroomsall the time. Several students reported likingspecific subjects such as Drama, English, FamilyManagement and Shop courses and disliking Math andScience courses although one math teacher was mentionedas someone who had been particularly understanding.None of the co-researchers reported that they likedschool prior to dropping out although two said thatschool was "O.K", and none reported being involved inany extracurricular activities such as theaterproductions, student council or athletics.Since their return to school via the Amigosprogram, the students report generally improved gradesand pride in their accomplishments. Most studentsexpressed some difficulties they encountered and arestill facing in trying to get back into a regular82program of studies. These problems included simplygetting up in the morning and catching the bus, gettinginto a habit of doing homework, trying to attendregularly, staying away from friends, trying to workand study at the same time, and trying to concentrateon studies when worried about family problems. Oneyoung woman experienced difficulty trying to balancecoming to school and looking after a baby sister whiletheir single mother works. Several of the intervieweeshad also taken part in a drama production written,directed and acted by the students of the alternateprogram. They expressed pride in their accomplishmentsnot only as individuals but also as a unit, a school.The two following tables represent the ratings ofthe situations included in the each of the schoolrelated situations category from the perspective of theco-researcher. The categories include schoolpersonnel, attendance and involvement. Table 6presents the frequency of school related situationswhich co-researchers rated as contributing to earlyschool leaving. Table 7 presents school relatedsituations which they viewed as contributing to stayingin or returning to school.Table 6School Situations Contributing to Leaving SchoolSchool situations^11^skipping school or classes11^poor academic achievement4^teachers weren't helpful3^teachers didn't care3^teachers didn't understand students3^didn't like high school class size or changes3^didn't like teaching methods or subjects3^school was a social gathering2^administration disciplinary action2^teachers were disrespectful2^school was boring1^repeated a grade1^teachers were bad tempered83Table 7School Situations Contributing to Continuing Educationn^School situations5^teacher understanding5^teacher helpfulness4^improved academic achievement4^self-paced individual curriculum2^good teachers2^school personnel contacted parent2^involved in extracurricular activity1^recognized learning disability1^younger teachers8485Drugs and Alcohol Of the twelve co-researchers interviewed for thisstudy, only three did not mention drugs or alcohol insome context. A forth interviewee commented that hecould take it or leave it. For the other co-researchers drugs and alcohol were involved in someaspect of their lives prior to dropping out of school.Four reported drug and/or alcohol abuse by one or bothparents. One young woman reported that not only herparents were alcoholics but also her grandfather. Oneco-researcher reported that her mother had died fromdrug abuse and another reported that her father wasdying from alcohol abuse.Drug and alcohol use by peers was reported byeight co-researchers, all of whom reported using drugsand/or alcohol with these peers. Two co-researchersdescribed themselves as alcoholics. Siblings andadults other than parents who lived in the home werementioned by three co-researchers as using drugs andalcohol in a dysfunctional way.Two of the co-researchers, one male and the otherfemale, appeared to use alcohol to a greater extentthan they used other drugs. Both of these young peopleran away from home - one from an alcoholic father and86the other from an abusive step-father. One of theyoung women reported that taking drugs made her "notinto school at all, at all. It makes it really hard toconcentrate and you really don't really want to doanything except have fun." She reported this with anew found awareness unlike the perception of drug useshe sees currently among the peer group from which shehas recently disengaged. "It has a lot (of controlover your life). My friends don't think they'readdicted because they're not on cocaine or anything,but they're still addicted. They can't stop. Likethey can, but they don't want to." She had notcompletely outgrown the drug culture, however, becauseshe added that she still uses drugs occasionally andthat her boyfriend still uses frequently.Two of the young men were currently using drugsand had not reported any change in their drug usepattern since dropping out. One of these individualshad stopped drug use before he entered Grade 8 and thenduring Grade 8 he began to use drugs again, and to hangout with individuals who were older than he was. Healso began to sell drugs. After he had dropped out andworked for a period of time, he lost the job and tookthe money he had saved to invest in drugs to sell. He87reported no exceptional emotion around selling drugs.Another young man was caught smoking marijuana outsidethe school by the administrators and after the ensuingdiscussion, he withdrew from school.Other co-researchers used drugs and alcohol aspart of peer group acceptance. In order to belong tothe group or to have leadership in the group, drug usewas mandatory. One young co-researcher lived with anadult who was a drug abuser and who would allow her tobring her friends over to get "wasted". Another youngman was raped while using drugs and alcohol at anotherman's home.Although two of the co-researchers reported at thetime of the interview that they were still doing somedrugs, most of the other drug or alcohol users reportedthat they had stopped using entirely prior to returningto school. Two of these former users had undergone adetoxification program. Several reported that theiralcohol or drug abusing parent or guardian had entereda program such as Alcoholics Anonymous or NarcoticsAnonymous prior to their return to the alternateschool.88Economic / Employment Situations This category included statements about parents orguardians financial situation, jobs held by students orparents, and future job or economic expectations. Theresearcher did not ask any direct questions concerningeither financial or employment situation.Of the four co-researchers who lived with bothnatural parents, three mentioned situations whichindicated comfortable financial status. One young manreported that they "had a place" at a well known skiresort where he and his father would go to ski for twoweeks of the year. Two other co-researchers mentionedthat their parents had taken holidays, one to Hawaiiand the other a family vacation by car to Toronto whichindicated some degree of financial security. Thefourth co-researcher who lived with both naturalparents reported that her father was an "alcoholic whowas going to die soon" which suggests that the familyincome may have been somewhat unstable. The young manwho was adopted reported that his parents had taken atrip to Mexico and were currently working and living inSaudi Arabia which suggests a comfortable financialsituation.89Three co-researchers lived with their naturalmother and either a step-father or mother's boyfriend.In all three of these situations, the natural motherwas the principal if not sole financial source. Twoyoung women lived in a single mother household. Inboth cases they had moved frequently to findemployment. One of these women reported using the foodbanks to supplement the family income:A lot of times me and my mom we had no food atall. Go to the food bank. Like the food in theredidn't last very long cause there was me and mybrother and my mom and there wasn't very much foodin one bag. Mr. Noodles and bread. It doesn'tget far.The other young woman who lived with her single motherreported that she was the live-in baby-sitter for herbaby sister while her mother worked graveyard shift.Of the co-researchers who did not live with theirnatural parents, one was supplied with food, shelterand basic clothing by her guardians. The other livedwith a woman who used the money sent to her to care forthe co-researcher to buy heroin and other drugs. Theco-researcher reported that she frequently went withoutfood unless she ate at her boyfriend's home. Although90her care-giver entered a drug rehabilitation programbefore the co-researcher returned to school, the factof going hungry continued to have deep meaning for her.At the time of the interview she related:I felt so good yesterday. I opened up my fridgeand thought, I could have an apple, a mango or akiwi. I'd think about how many people would justlove to walk into a fridge and go for a mango or akiwi fruit and I just  eat it with pride.Of the two co-researchers who reported earning anyincome before dropping out one held a part-time job andthe other sold drugs.Five of the co-researchers reported getting jobsafter they had dropped out. In each case they werefired, laid off or quit within a period of a fewmonths. Of the seven young people who did not reportgetting jobs after dropping out, one continued to baby-sit for her mother so her mother could continue towork, two continued to live at home with no change infinancial status and one was sent to live with themother's friend and her husband who provided for herwelfare. Two young people ran away to live on thestreets in "squats" and cheap hotels or with friends.One young woman returned to her natural mother in Peru93.and was provided for by her brothers who worked ascasual laborers.The poor financial situation was mentionedfrequently as an impetus to returning to school. Asone person put it, "I used to see friends who droppedout and I thought, well, it's no big deal. You can geta good job, you can survive. But it's not that easy."Most felt that with Grade 12 graduation they would beable to get a good job which meant financial securityand happiness. As one young woman expressed it, "I'mhere (in the alternate program) because I want a goodjob. After that I should be happy. I'd always havemoney there if I needed it."For two young men, however, the lure of a good jobwas pulling them away from the alternate program. Atthe time of the validation telephone interview one ofthem was working nearly full time and was experiencingdifficulty in going to school at all and the second wasreported by his girlfriend to have left to "work for awhile on a ranch in Calgary".Legal / Disciplinary Situations This category included any mention of interactionwith the police, illegal activities and disciplinaryactions taken by the school. There was no question92which asked directly whether or not the co-researcherhad ever been in trouble with the school or the law orhad taken part in any illegal activities.Six of the co-researchers were personally involvedin drug use or abuse. Six co-researchers lived in thesame home with parents or guardians who were drugabusers, one of whom was a heroin addict. Five of theco-researchers reported drug use and abuse by theirpeers. With the exception of valium, none of the drugsthey reported using were legally available for sale.One of the co-researchers was involved in the saleof non-prescription drugs. He had also been suspendedprevious to dropping out and quit school before hecould be expelled for smoking marijuana outside of theschool. Another young man was implicated with thosewho let off a military smoke bomb and various acts ofvandalism which the school administration was unable toverify. Both of these young men expressed anger andresentment at the school authorities; one for theirattempts to make him admit to the vandalism or to namethose who were responsible, the members of his group,and the other for trying to make him go to classes andconform to rules that were not his own choice. A thirdyoung man expressed his anger at the school and hisabusive step-father by "lighting fires, shoplifting,getting into trouble and trying to anger people". Healso stole a teacher's purse because he didn't likeher.Only one female co-researcher reported any illegalactivities other than using drugs. She was picked upfor shoplifting when she was living on the streets andtaken to live in a foster home.Physical Activities Most of the co-researchers did not reportinvolvement in any physical activity such as sports,running or aerobic exercise. One young man reportedenjoying weight lifting, swimming and skiing andmentioned that he had played rugby and baseball. Twoyoung women reported enjoying exercise and ridingbicycle. As one of them stated:As I started riding my bike I started lookingbetter and feeling better. Once I started feelingbetter, I don't know why, the bike riding wasreally healthy, made me feel really good aboutmyself because I looked better and was eatingbetter.9394Medical and Mental Problems This category included mental and physicalillness, disability and death reported by the co-researchers.Two of the co-researchers reported that they werediabetic. One of these young men believed that hisparents had given him up for adoption when he was 13months old partly because he was diabetic. The secondyoung man reported that he had been diagnosed diabeticsix years earlier and only in the last year and a halfhad he been trying to get it under control. This timeframe coincided with when he had reestablished positiverelations with his parents and had attempted to returnto school for the first time.Two co-researchers reported the deaths of closefamily members. One reported the deaths of hergrandfather and her grandmother within a year. She wasparticularly close to her grandfather and her sense ofloss was intensified. As she stated:When he first died I was just in shock. I didn't,you know, let it bother me. But then after amonth or two, it was, you know, just really hard.I used to have, you know, dreams about him,nightmares and stuff like that. And he was a95really bad alcoholic. My mom was a really badalcoholic too. I didn't really have no one totalk to cause it was her dad and her mom who died.When she was in Grade 8 one young woman lost hermother to drugs. It took nearly a year, however, untilshe was in Grade 9 for it to "click in". She reported,"It started to bother me and going to school was a timeto think about it and so I didn't want to go to school.And I never got to see my brother anymore."One young man reported that his step-father hadbeen a "real good guy" until he was in a car accidentand lost part of his memory. This resulted in reducedfamily income, the mother returning to work graveyardshift, and loss of parental authority.One young man reported attempting suicide. Hereported it in the context of having lost his job,being out of money and ending a relationship.Another male co-researcher expressed severe mentalanguish. He reported:There was a time when I thought I was crazy. Ishould be put in a mental asylum because I wouldat least be around some people of my own kind. Iwouldn't have to be judged or have all theseproblems. I just wished something would happen to96me, like something drastic like I'd be put intothe hospital or I'd get put away or something.For a while I was considering going to jail to getaway from myself.Time and First-stated Reason for Leaving School Each co-researcher was asked when it was that heor she first thought about leaving school beforegraduating. Most answered with an approximate age orgrade and immediately followed by a reason or situationwhich prompted the departure from school. Thiscategory includes these data.Seven of the co-researchers, five females and twomales reported thinking about or actually dropping outof school in Grade 9; three, one female and 2 males,in Grade 10; one female in Grade 8 and one male ingrade 12. Six of the seven female co-researchersdropped out at or before the age of 15. Only one ofthe five male co-researchers had dropped out duringthat time frame. The median age of drop out for thegirls was 15 while the median dropout age for the boyswas 16.Nine of the co-researchers first mentioned school-related reasons for dropping out of school. Thereasons they stated were that they did not get along97with the teachers, they had poor grades, they generallydidn't want to go to school or they hated school. Oneyoung man reported that the other kids "bugged" him toomuch. The other co-researchers mentioned personalreasons first. The reasons they reported were thedeath of a grandfather, the death of the mother anddropping out to take care of a girlfriend.Reason for ReturnThere was no direct question which asked the timeor reason for returning to the school system or forselecting the Amigos alternate program.The students who were interviewed for this studyhad been out of the regular school system for varyingperiods of time. Two students had not spent anysignificant period of time out of the regular systembut had chosen to enter the alternate school because ofproblems associated with the regular public school.One of these students was moving to avoid the perceivedharassment by the administration of the public school;the other was moving to the alternate school ratherthan continue in her previous school with a group thathad lead her into skipping and breaking house rules.Neither of these students had spent more than threemonths out of the school system, but had dropped out of98the regular system. Other co-researchers returned toschool after 6 months to 5 years of absence.During the interview four of the co-researchersstated that they were back at school for employment orfinancial reasons. They had found that moderately goodjobs were not available to them and that they requiredtheir Grade 12 to get into the job market. Anothergroup of four stated that they had chosen Amigosbecause their friends were there or had recommendedthat they try the program. For three of theinterviewees, the structure of the program and theperceived helpfulness and understanding of the teacherswas a major reason for returning and for remaining inthe program. The resolution of personal problemsprompted two young people to return. As one put it, "Igot into 'me'. I became the most important thing."Outstanding Person in Their School Career Each of the co-researchers was asked if there wasanyone who stood out in his or her school career and ifthat person was influential in his or her decision tostay in school. The following data are the directresponse to that question and do not indicateinformation from other parts of the transcript.99Family members were reported as influential in theschool careers of three co-researchers. Two youngwomen mentioned that their mothers were important butfor different reasons. One felt that her mother alwayswanted her to go to school and the other mentioned thather mother was "like a big sister" to her. Her friendsliked her mother too and they would come over to herhouse to visit, making her mother part of her peergroup. One young man felt that nobody had been reallyimportant to him but he mentioned that he went throughthe same things at the same time as had his brother.His brother "waited too long to make something ofhimself" and he did not want to be like his brother.One young woman reported that her counsellor,social worker and foster mother had all been veryimportant in bringing her back to school. In herwords, "my social worker, he was like a father, hepushed me until I did what I was supposed to, and E.(my foster mother) became my second mother.Three interviewees stated that school staff hadbeen important to them during their school careers.One mentioned Grade 7 and Grade 8 teachers as beingparticularly important. Another young man mentionedhis Grade 5 teacher, but added that all the other100teachers were less than adequate. For another youngman, the administrators were the most influential in anegative way. He felt that he would still be in theregular program if it had not been for them. He alsosaid that his friends were important but in a morepositive way.Two young women indicated that their boyfriendswere the most influential in their school careers. Oneboyfriend used to pick up the co-researcher and bringher to school. The other's boyfriend provided arelationship which kept the co-researcher out of anundesirable peer group but also kept her from attendingclasses some days. Two young men felt that the onlyperson who influenced their school career wasthemselves. They decided if they were going to schooland which classes they would take or attend if theywent.Returning or Leaving Home Although there was no question which asked whethera co-researcher had left home at any time during his orher school career, all but three of the peopleinterviewed reported an experience in this category.In each case the initial leaving home took place at thetime of or shortly after dropping out of school. Two101co-researchers ran away from abusive homes. In onecase the individual's father had beaten him moreseverely than usual and in the other her mother's drug-addicted roommate had threatened to lock her in herroom. Two young women left home to find freedom fromparental rules. This involved hanging out with theirfriends and doing drugs. One of these young women wentto live on the streets, was picked up, taken home andran away again. She was picked up for shoplifting andthis time taken to a foster home. She returned to herown home six months later. The other young woman whowanted freedom from rules used all her money for drugsand returned home after three months.One young man reported being adopted and "bouncedaround" when his parents moved. He had dropped out ofschool to take care of his fiancee and when therelationship went under he attempted suicide. After"straightening out a few things" he left home, foundand lost a job, and was thrown out of his basementsuite. He lived on the streets for a week and thenmoved home. His parents then moved to Saudi Arabia buthe declined to go with them and he moved to a tent in apark where he was living at the time of the interview.102In three instances, the co-researchers left homeat the instigation of their parents. In one case themother could not handle her daughter and so she senther to live with a friend who 'grounded her and tookaway her telephone' so she would be separated from apeer group which was involved in drugs and skippingschool. At six years of age one of the co-researcherswas sent by her mother from their home in South Americato live in Canada with an  uncle because the singlemother did not have enough money to support all of thechildren in her family. When she was 14 this co-researcher was having difficulties within the uncle'sfamily and so she left, and dropped out of school toreturn to her mother in South America. After threeyears she returned to Canada and her uncle's home totry to finish her Grade 12. One co-researcher reportedthat his mother had said 'no school no board and room'so when he quit he had to find a place to live. Hereturned home when he was able to negotiate somechanges in the house rules and when he was able to talkto his mother without a fight.One young man left home to try to "make it on myown". He moved in with four other young men but movedback home after five months because he found that there103wasn't any money left over to do anything after thebills were paid.Situations Involving Adults Other Than FamilyAdults other than nuclear family members werementioned in key situations by eight of the co-researchers. For several of them these adults providedessentially negative experiences. One young man wasraped by an older man. One young woman reported thatthe person entrusted with her care was a "massiveheroin addict" who allowed her friends to come over touse drugs in the house. Another young woman reportedthat her mother's roommate was a heavy drug user whothreatened her and treated her like a servant. A youngman reported losing a job because the employer didn'tlike him.For other co-researchers the adults in their livesplayed a more supportive role. Three of them mentionedseeing counsellors who were helpful, three reportedfoster parents who were supportive and one mentionedthat her social worker made her do what had to be donein order to turn her life around. One young woman alsomentioned that certain rock musicians and certain musicwere very inspirational in that they provided role104models of people who had cleaned up their lives fromdrugs and the music gave her hope.Abusive Situations Three co-researchers reported being abused. Oneyoung woman reported that her alcoholic father had hither and her brother. That had been an issue when sheleft home and dropped out of school. At the time ofthe interview she reported that "if he starts hitting,we hit him back, now that we've grown bigger". Beingable to stand up to the abuser both physically andemotionally was instrumental in her returning home andreturning to school.Another young woman was beaten by her alcoholicboyfriend. She reported, "If I didn't want to be withhim he'd get, like violent. He'd start getting mad andstart hitting me. So a lot of it was just fear thathe'd hit me if I left." She also reported that hewould follow her everywhere in his car, so in order toget away from him she took up bicycle riding whichresulted in her feeling better physically and mentally.During the time she spent alone she became aware of herown likes and dislikes and began to act upon them. Oneof the consequences of her growing awareness wasreturning to school via the Amigos program.105One young man reported a history of abuse from thetime he was very young. His natural father was putinto prison for sexual molestation of his two oldersisters and abuse of his mother. His first stepfatherbeat him, forced him to kill rabbits with a hammer andto watch while he shot the co-researcher's dog. Theyoung man was also abused by other students in theschool who threw him in the showers, in the mud, orthrew eggs in his face. In order to escape the pain heran away from home and subsequently dropped out ofschool. Although he ended these sources of abuse, hetook up drugs and alcohol and only ended an abusiverelationship with them when he was raped by a man whiledoing drugs at this man's house. He returned to hisparents for help and they enrolled him in adetoxification program. The counselling he receivedhelped him to understand his victimization and gave himthe impetus to return to school.Self Concept This category includes comments made by the co-researchers about themselves. Many times theydescribed characteristics of themselves which they feltwere constant or that had always been part of theirpersonalities. Two young people represented themselves106as lazy. Both of them expressed the laziness in termsof not wanting to do the homework from the earlyelementary school years to the present time. Threeyoung people reported strong feelings of lonelinessfrom very early age until the present time. Many ofthe co-researchers expressed low self-esteem prior toand during the dropout period. Only three co-researchers made direct references to specific areas ofinferiority which had persisted until the time of theinterview. One reported that she could not do twothings at once. Another reported that she was easilyswayed and the third that she had difficulty withschool work. Two young men reported a strong sense ofindependence. Both of them remarked that they shouldbe able to take whatever classes they wanted and attendwhen they wanted because it was their education, notthe teachers'. They both attributed their success totheir own efforts and their failures, such as droppingout of school to the fault of the teachers or theadministration.With the exception of one young man, each of theco-researchers had become aware that he or she hadundergone significant change since the first thought ofdropping out of school. The changes included becoming107aware of their individuality separate from the group,improved self esteem, particularly in their perceptionof being capable of handling academic school work, andincreased sense of responsibility not just forthemselves but for the others around them. The meaningof these changes will be discussed in the followingsection.Alternate Programs Four interviewees reported attending otheralternate education programs before entering the Amigosprogram in which they were currently enrolled. Each ofthese alternate programs was set up to meet the needsof certain populations of students. Of the programsmentioned by the co-researchers, two were designed asre-entry programs for students who had left the regularschool system for a short period of time. Theseprograms offered some junior high school subjects andthe students were allowed to work at their own pace.They also taught writing, reading and study skills andother basic skills on an individual or small groupbasis to students who demonstrated need. They offereda Grade 10 equivalency certificate at the completion oftheir course of studies and the students could at thattime re-enter the regular senior secondary program or108seek employment with the assistance of the schoolstaff. The co-researchers reported that they hadenjoyed these programs but that they had not learned agreat deal there. As one young woman described it:I left school for two months and I went to thealternate school. That was just a game. Itdidn't help me at all. Down there they let youscrew around and do whatever you want. And it'sso easy that when you come up here to do yourGrade 10 you're lost. But it was good. I learnedsome stuff from down there but education-wise,it's the pits. You're better off going back tothe regular school system.Interestingly, she and several other interviewees madeclear distinctions between what they viewed as"alternate schools" and the program in which they werecurrently enrolled.One young man reported that he had attempted anadult learning program which was designed to assistadults who had been out of school for two or more yearsto complete their secondary school education. Thisprogram offered Grade 12 equivalency at the completionof the course of studies. The co-researcher reportedthat he had gone for about one month but had not been109able to discipline himself enough to show up. He said,"It was very slack. It was "work at your own speed"but it was like the teachers didn't really care if youwere there or not."The Amigos program received very strong approvalfrom each one of the co-researchers. Three of themreported that they liked being there because of thepeople in the program who were accepting and "like afamily". Three co-researchers mentioned that theteachers were particularly helpful and understanding.They spent as much time with the individual when and asneeded in any subject. The young people were effusivein their commendations of these educators. The co-researchers also liked the program design which allowedthem to attend when they wanted, to work at their ownpace and offered the realistic hope of Grade 12academic graduation. As one young woman reported:I wouldn't be in school if it wasn't for Amigos.I don't know what I would be doing. I wouldn't beable to handle regular school. They give you somuch and when you give so much you get rewardedfor it. I like that because it makes you feelgood inside. We've all kind of gone through thatsame stuff and we all kind of understand where110everybody is, so we all support each other. We'relike one big family. In Amigos you can spend thewhole day working on one subject if you want. Ifyou don't understand something the teacher comesand he sits there and he sits there with you untilyou actually understand it.Future Dropout Possibilities One of the interview questions asked if the co-researcher was thinking about leaving school now andwhat it would take to make him or her leave. Every oneof the co-researchers said very emphatically that he orshe would not leave the program before graduation. Forthree co-researchers, the catalyst for leaving would bethe same as that which triggered their departure fromthe regular program. One would leave because of peerpressure, another if the administrators from hisprevious program took over the Amigos program, and athird, if there were another death among the members ofher nuclear family. Two other co-researchers reportedthat they would only leave the program if they werekicked out and a fifth co-researcher reported that itwould take a lot of horses dragging him away to makehim leave.111Four co-researchers had reported that the reasonthey had decided to return to school was for financialbenefits which would accrue from employmentpossibilities with a Grade 12 education. Only two ofthese four students, however, would leave the Amigosprogram for financial reasons. One said that he wouldleave if he had enough money to travel and the other ifshe won the lotto so that she didn't have to work. Oneyoung woman said she would leave the program if hermother became seriously ill and she had to care forher. One young man reported that he would probablyleave if he started drinking again. One young womanrefused to even entertain the possibility that shemight leave the program. When asked what would makeher leave she replied, "Nothing. I'm out for NumberOne.".Perception of Future One of the interview questions asked the co-researchers how they saw their future unfolding. Thiscategory is comprised of their answers to thisquestion.Prior to dropping out of school, most of the co-researchers believed that they could get a good job,leave home, and be free to do what they wanted to do.112Before they returned to school, most of them hadmodified their perception of the future to includeGrade 12 graduation as the key to their futurehappiness. Every student interviewed was firmlycommitted to graduating and each one expressed somelong-range career dreams. Only one co-researcher hadlooked into realizing the career aspirations bychecking out the training he would need to pursue thecareer and the college entrance requirements he wouldhave to meet as part of his graduation program. Forthe other co-researchers, some had aspirations forprofessional careers such as becoming a veterinarian,teacher, nurse, social worker, or lawyer while othershad dreams of becoming an actor, writer, paramedic,dental hygienist or legal secretary. All of the femaleco-researchers reported career aspirations intraditionally female careers. Two expressed vaguedesires to go to college. Several young womenexpressed their vision of the future in terms of therelationships that they would have such as gettingmarried and having children or raising foster children.Several co-researchers mentioned wanting to travel.One reported wanting to take time to find herself after113she graduated. The one young man who had fairly clearplans for achieving his future career stated:Actually the one thing is, the thing that is keepingme in school now is the thought of getting on withmy life and giving my life meaning. Pull thingstogether and make something of myself and makemyself feel good in the long run.114V DISCUSSIONSeveral issues arose from the data in this study.The data confirmed and added to results of previousstudies indicating the importance of the family, peers,and the school in early school leaving. Of particularimportance, however, was how the adolescentdevelopmental changes shaped the co-researcher'sperception of the school, family and peers and how thismay have contributed to early school leaving. Thefollowing discussion will examine the data as theyrelate to family, peer and school influences on earlyschool leaving from a developmental perspective.Developmental Perspectives Early school leaving can best be understood as adynamic, rather than a series of isolated events orsituations impacting upon an individual. One of themost facilitative milieux for understanding thisprocess is through examining the developmentalprocesses from the point of view of the early schoolleaver. The data were examined from the perspective oftwo theoretical models, Erickson's (1963) psychosocial115developmental theory and Kegan's (1982) constructive-developmental theory.Psychosocial development theory such as that ofErickson (1963) posits that development progresses in agenetically determined sequence toward broader socialinteractions. Development is orderly, progressingthrough eight stages, each of which presents theindividual with a crisis which involves conflictbetween new abilities or attitudes and the inclinationsthat oppose them. Resolution of conflict results inthe development of a sense of competence concerning aprimarily social capability. The conflict or crisis atany stage may be resolved positively in which case thecrisis of the next stage is likely to be resolved inthe same positive manner. If the crisis is resolvednegatively, then the next stage crisis is more likelyto be resolved in an unsuccessful manner.According to Erickson, the adolescentdevelopmental crisis is that of developing an egoidentity. If the crisis is resolved unsuccessfullyidentity diffusion may result. Adolescents are tornbetween quickly accepting a clearly defined sense ofself and experimenting with a wide variety of roles.Unsuccessful resolution of this crisis may be116exemplified in the inability to make a firm choice ofoccupational identity. This often results because ofinsecurity about skills, sexual identity or personalvalue, the consequence of unsuccessful resolution ofearlier developmental crises.Identity Issues At the time of the interview for this study theco-researchers were between 15 and 20 years of age.Only one of these young people had any clearly plannedcareer path. The others had vague dreams oraspirations but had not formulated any plans forachieving them beyond passing Grade 12. As one co-researcher said, "I'm not really setting any goals incase it doesn't work out and I would feel disappointedabout it." Three of the co-researchers expressedactively seeking or planning to search for their ownidentity or sense of self but this search was also notclearly planned. Typical of the general vagueness oftheir search is one young woman who reported, " I amgoing to take a few years off to find myself. I cansave money to go to college if I decide to go. I'dlike to be a foster parent. I don't want to getmarried because you see so many whose lives go straightdown after that and I don't want to be like that."117The median age of the co-researchers at the timeof interview was 17.5 years. Only four of these youngpeople indicated during the interview that they wereeven at the very onset of resolving their adolescentidentity crisis. The remaining co-researchers did notindicate in any way that they had yet become engaged inthis adolescent task with the possible exception ofexperimenting with negative identities which Ericksonsuggests is a retention of negative aspects of earliercrises.The co-researchers' statements indicated that theresolution of prior developmental tasks was frequentlyunfavorable. This became particularly evident whenthey spoke about what was going on for them when theyfirst thought about dropping out. Two co-researchersreported that they were lazy and another that shewasn't smart enough. According to Erickson's (1968)theory these statements suggest that the co-researchershad resolved unfavorably the late childhood crisis ofindustry versus inferiority and that their subsequentsearch for identity during their adolescent years wouldbe unfavorably resolved at least to some degree aswell.118It would appear then that these young people aresomewhat delayed in their psychosocial development andaccording to Erickson, their chances of favorablyresolving their identity crisis are significantlyreduced because they have not resolved favorably thecrises of earlier developmental stages.Social Isolation Issues At first glance it would not be evident that theseyoung people were experiencing psychosocialdevelopmental delays or difficulties. According toEgan and Cowan (Egan, 1979), who elaborated uponErickson's adolescent crises model, the task of earlyadolescence, from the age of 13 to 17, is to resolvethe crisis of belonging or social isolation. At thetime when the young women were first thinking ofdropping out one of the most important elements intheir lives was their peer group, which Egan and Cowansuggest is one of the key systems for resolving thisadolescent crisis. At the same time, all of the youngmen reported being actively involved in a peer group aswell. As outlined in the results section of this studythe young men and the young women differed in the waythey participated in their peer groups. Simply stated,the young women looked for relationships within the119groups and the young men looked for affiliation or asense of belonging from their peer group. More,however, may be learned about the experience of earlyschool leaving by examining the meaning that theindividual attaches to the group affiliation which isparamount at that time of their lives.Constructive-Developmental Perspectives In order to understand the meaning an individualattaches to any event, it would be helpful tounderstand this person as in the process of developmentrather than "being" at a particular developmentalstage. The constructive-developmental theory of Kegan(1982) provides such a framework. According to Keganthe self is in constant evolution moving through aseries of stages or balances defined by the meaning-making that the individual is engaged in at that time.This meaning-making is self-construction through aprocess of subject-object differentiation andreintegration. The self evolves or develops from beingall 'subject' by throwing off parts which then become'object' to be reintegrated in the new meaning-makingsystem of the individual. For example, a very young120infant has limited understanding of the 'objective'world outside of itself. According to Piaget (1969)the process of the first eighteen months of life isthat of developing object relations. The infant'smoving and sensing, the basic structure of its personalorganization, get "thrown from" or become the object ofattention of a newly evolved structure. Kegan (1982,whose theory incorporates and builds upon that ofPiaget states:This is the new subjectivity. For the very firsttime, this creates a world separate from me, thefirst qualitative transformation in the history ofguaranteeing the world its distinct integrity, ofhaving it to relate to, rather than to be embeddedin (p. 66).The self is embedded in an environment whichfunctions to hold and affirm it and at the same time tochallenge the self to let go of certain deeply embeddedself concepts which then become object rather thansubject and are re-integrated into the meaning-makingssystem in a new way. From this perspective, tounderstand the individual's developmental process is tounderstand his or her meaning-making system - to seethe world through the co-researcher's eyes.121Developmental Stage at Early School LeavingIn light of the prominence of the peer group inthe co-researchers narratives in the time period priorto dropping out of school, it would be particularlyimportant to understand how the individual makesmeaning out of his or her relationship with peers andpeer groups at that time. The young women in thisstudy appeared to enter into a peer group for thepersonal relationships and the young men for generalaffiliation which promoted their autonomy from theauthority of their parents and the school. What isimportant from the perspective of early school leavingis the meaning that the individual makes of therelationships and of the autonomy.In the time period leading up to dropping out ofschool, the young women appeared to be completelyembedded in their peer group relationships. Theydefined themselves by these relationships and appearedinseparable from them without a loss of self. That isnot to say that these young women could notdifferentiate between themselves and the other membersof their peer group, but rather that in Kegan's terms,those 'objects', the peer group, are subject to theindividual's perception of them. The individual cannot122separate herself from her perceptions. Kegan (1982)refers to this as being subject to "needs, interestsand wishes" (p. 88). Kegan characterizes these "needs"as an enduring disposition rather than content; whatone is rather than qualities that one has. One youngwoman reported:When I got to high school it was a little betterbecause I had friends that cared about me. Theyhelped me a lot because they understood me andhelped me with anything I had. If I had a problemthey would talk to me and they knew how I livedand they understood me.At the time she first began thinking about dropping outof school, this co-researcher was embedded in her needsfor security, understanding and sense of personalvalue. She constituted her friends or her peer groupas those who functioned to help her meet her needs.That was the meaning she attached to her peer group.Similarly, the young woman who ran away from an abusivehome reported that on the streets she met "a group ofpeople that would take care of me." This group wasconstituted to meet her need for security. Other youngwomen constituted the peer group to meet their needsfor a sense of value.123During the process of dropping out of school theyoung men were making meaning of the group affiliationin a similar way. They too "were" their needs which intheir case was autonomy and independence. Throughaffiliation with a group of heavy drug and alcoholusers one young man was enabled to leave his abusivehome. Another young man used a similar group of olderpeers to feel grown up and independent of his family.Two of the male co-researchers used groupaffiliation to meet their needs for independence orautonomy from the authority of the school system. Oneof these young men was caught smoking marijuana outsidethe school by the administrators and after the ensuingdiscussion, he withdrew from school. As he reportedthe incident during the interview, his tone and choiceof words indicated that he felt perfectly justified inusing drugs when and where he wanted. In his words,"(the vice-principals) came out and they were prettyrough and throwing a lot of insults and stuff and so Ithrew my own and they spazzed out and so I said, allright, I'll leave." His justification for leaving didnot lie in the morality of using drugs but rather inthe concept of his own individuality or autonomy. Hewas in a conflict or contest with the administration, a124test of strength which was very important for him towin. His identity formation involved separation from"that which I am not". Smoking marijuana outside theschool where he was almost certain to be caught, provedto him he was "not" subject to the rules andregulations established by institutions such as theschool or the justice system and provided a convenientjustification for leaving the school system under hisown volition rather than for the failing grades he wasachieving. He really felt that he did not belong inhigh school because the rules he was subject to, suchas answering only when asked to and obeying other classbehavioral rules reflected the teacher's desire to"look down on him". As he reported:On the first day of classes the teachers treat youlike you are about nine years old. "This is myclassroom. This is your desk. Do not speakunless spoken to. Do not write when I say do notwrite." And I look at it if I know the answer toa question, I don't need to listen to you. I willwrite the answer when I think it is appropriate.Smoking marijuana outside the school was his way ofgetting away from a situation which inhibited hisconcept of autonomy and power.125The second of these young men chose to leaveschool rather than submit to the school authority andreveal knowledge about incidents he and his group wereassociated with. His loyalty to the group provided himwith the autonomy he needed to resist the power of theschool administration.Neither the young men nor the young women reportedany feelings of guilt concerning their actions at thetime of dropping out. According to Kegan (1982), thatis a limit or boundary for those who are at what hedescribes as the "Imperial balance". While theindividual may be concerned about the consequences ofcertain actions, such as being caught for drug use, andmay understand that others may feel angry or hurtbecause of his or her act of shoplifting, theindividual does not make how someone else may feel anypart of his or her own feeling or meaning-making. Forexample, one young man stated that he had gone back toselling drugs after a job loss shortly after droppingout. He reported no exceptional emotion around sellingdrugs. In his words, "It doesn't make you feel anyparticular way. It's just money in your pocket. Youhad to eat, right." He reported no guilt at the timeof the drug sales and no sense of guilt at the time of126the interview. How others might feel about the sale ofdrugs had no part in his feeling or meaning-makingaround the situation. Similarly, the young man who wasinvolved with a group that set off a military smokebomb in the school felt no sense of guilt around theendangerment of other students or interfering withtheir right to uninterrupted learning in a safeenvironment. At the time of the interview this youngman reported that he felt he had been pushed out ofschool. He went on to say, "But they (theadministrators) also wanted me to stay in there so theycould like blame stuff on me." His meaning-makingcould not take into consideration the feelings or theneeds of the administrators to attend to the safety ofall of the students in the school. At the time ofschool leaving and at the time of the interview both ofthese co-researchers were clearly embedded in their ownneeds at what Kegan calls the Imperial Balance and hadnot moved significantly toward the Interpersonal stage,the next evolutionary balance.Developmental Stage at Return to School Other than the two previously mentioned youngpeople, the co-researchers gave indications that theirdevelopmental stage as evidenced in their meaning-127making had changed since the time of dropping out. Forsome, the feelings of others had become a part of theirmeaning-making. One young man reported that since hehad returned to school, "everybody is pleased. I'mpleased with myself too." A female co-researcherstated:I've sort of got my own mind. It's better nowbecause I'm me. I'm my own self and nobody elsetells me how to be. Except my dad. I do what Iwant, right. And it's not going to affect anybodyexcept me. In a way I guess it does affect my dadbecause he wants me to be very independent on myown without any guy's help."Her statement reflects the first tentative steps towardintegrating another's needs perspective with her ownwhich reflects not only a new level of socialperspective but also a reorganization of her internalmeaning-making. Another young woman reported thatsince her mother had a baby she is more responsible forherself, her home, her friends and her family. Shefelt "grown up" because her meaning-making was able tointegrate the feelings of her mother. Both of theseyoung women indicated that they had integratedanother's feelings into their meaning-making.128According to Kegan's constructive developmental model,this indicates that they were making the first tenuousmovement toward achieving an "Interpersonal balance",the third stage of meaning-making.There are indications from some co-researchersthat this change in meaning-making was a key factor intheir decision to return to school. For one youngwoman her decision to return to school was made whenher meaning-making took in the feelings of her familyand the poverty they lived with in another country.She said, "I got to thinking differently when I wentand saw how much they suffer there." Other co-researchers attempted to return resume their educationin other alternate programs before this level ofmeaning-making was reached. One young man reported:At first I did expect myself to give it a goodtry, but after I got into it (the adult educationprogram) it just kinda, that whole thing just wentout of my mind. It was just like, well, I'll come(to school). I might as well do something. No.Let's go out and have a smoke. And then I'd goout and do something else too.This young man was still completely embedded in his ownneeds.129Development and the FamilyAccording to Kegan, the culture of embeddedness atthe Imperial balance, the meaning-making which the co-researchers appeared to be functioning with at the timeof early school leaving, is supported by the family,the school as well as the peer group. One of thefunctions that each of these units serves is to providea medium or culture for role-taking. Nowhere is thismore evident than in the relationship the individual isevolving with his or her family. The Imperial selfcomes into being usually around the time the childfirst starts school, at about five years of age. Atthis time the individual becomes differentiated fromhis or her family and takes on the role of "child"relative to "parents" in lieu of the undifferentiatedadhesion to the adults with whom the infant lived.The father is very important in this new roledifferentiation in that he provides a modifyinginfluence to the mother who traditionally has been theprimary care-giver up until this time. Only four ofthe co-researchers in this study appeared to have theinfluence of a steady family and in particular a malefigure to balance the mother's influence as the child130role emerged. Four of the co-researchers had negativemale influences during this period of time. For two ofthem, the male parent was alcoholic. Another had anabusive stepfather and the fourth young person's fatherwas brain damaged in an accident when the young man wasnine years old. The remaining four of these youngpeople had no regular male influence during this timeof emerging independence and role differentiation.It might be suggested that for the eight youngpeople with negative or no regular male influence thatthe family culture was less confirming of theindividual's emergence from the highly integrated stateof early childhood and that the highly differentiatedstate which Kegan calls the Imperial balance wouldtherefore be delayed.Development and the School The school system is designed to support the childat the Imperial stage. It recognizes roles andrespects ritual and order. It provides positivefeedback for the developing independent child. Theschool, however, does not provide for a child who hasnot yet reached this stage of evolutionary balance.131Kegan (1982) stated, "If the child is not ready tobegin the exercises of the Imperial balance, not readyto play a role and take a role, then the school is leftholding the child-to-come rather than the child-who-is,a situation costly for both and in need ofintervention" (p. 166). Similarly, if a teenage girlis physically well developed and has reached an agewhere social freedoms are accepted but she is not ableto function at the Interpersonal meaning-making stageexpected of her, she will experience frustration andanger at the unfair demands put upon her and the schooland the family will also experience frustration andanger when she does not meet their expectations.Examination of the experience of developmentaldelay longitudinally through the perspective of one ofthe co-researchers could shed some light early schoolleaving. One young woman reported screaming matcheswith her elementary school teachers because they didnot help her exactly when she needed or wanted help.She had not evolved a sense of role, of taking turnsfor mutual benefit. The others in her life expectedher to behave in an age-appropriate way and she didnot. It could be inferred that she was developmentallydelayed at that time and had continued to function at a132meaning-making level two to three years junior to herclassmates.This young woman appeared vaguely aware that herunsatisfactory relationship with the school system andto some extent her peers had persisted for a long time.She reported that the school "just kept on passing methrough when I shouldn't have passed the grades. Theyjust wanted me out of the school basically." This sameyoung woman ran away from home and dropped out ofschool to live on the streets. The reason she gave forthis action was that on the streets "I had completefreedom. I didn't have to be in on time. I didn'thave to do what anybody said. I could just be my ownperson." It would appear that she had experiencedanger and resentment over the expectations of othersthat she take their feelings into account, that she beable to keep agreements, that she behave in a way whichrespected them. Because of her age and physicaldevelopment, the others in her life expected her tobehave at an Interpersonal level and she did not meettheir expectations. Even when she lived on the streetsthe group she lived with told her to go home because,in her words, "I just didn't fit in." It could beargued that her developmental delay resulted in133alienation from her family, from the school and fromagemates. Leaving school before graduation wouldcomprehensible under those circumstances.Given the developmental delay evidenced by theyoung people in this study, their negative reportsconcerning the school system take on a new perspective.Most of the co-researchers reported that at the timewhen they were first thinking about dropping out ofschool teachers didn't understand them. It could besuggested that the teachers had expectations of a levelor stage of meaning-making that these young people hadnot attained.The secondary school is not designed to supportdevelopmentally delayed young people except in the mostrudimentary way by providing learning assistance. The"role" of student attained in elementary school, thatof relating to a single classroom authority, no longerfunctions in the secondary school where students movefrom class to class and teacher to teacher. For someof these young people it appeared that their hard-wonsense of autonomy was threatened by the bewilderingarray of teachers and classroom rules and they reactedby skipping classes.134The secondary school curriculum scope and sequencein most subject areas is consciously designed to reachstudents at a particular cognitive level and alsounconsciously reflects the expectations that thestudents will function at an Interpersonal meaning-making level. For example, secondary school studentswould be expected to "interpret" literature. Thiswould involve, at least in part, being able to makemeaning of characters involved in interpersonalstruggle and through their interaction, come to anunderstanding of what the author believes is true inthe world. A young person who is still completelyembedded in his or her own needs could not respond tothis challenge and would be frustrated and angry at theteacher who didn't accept an answer which made sensefrom the student's meaning-making level. If theindividual does not respond to the culturing process ofthe school, if he or she remains firmly imbedded in hisor her own needs, then conflict and unhappiness mustnecessarily follow.Development and Transition.Several of the young people interviewed for thisstudy referred to the difficulties they experiencedwhen they transferred from the elementary school to the135secondary school. This change is from a primary typecontext, that of intimate, intense and diffuserelationships to a secondary context, involvingimpersonal, superficial, discrete and specificrelationships. According to Simmons (1987) somestudents may experience a high degree of discontinuitybetween their old an new school settings particularlyif the secondary school is large as was the case formost of the co-researchers in this study. If thestudent experiences failure in this new setting, ordoes less well than agemates on the tasks highly valuedby the key adults, the student may be alienated fromschool and turn more to peer groups which support thembut are denigrating of school standards. This studysupports Simmons hypothesis.VI SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONSThis study has described and discussed how youngadults who have resumed their education in an alternateprogram experienced dropping out of and returning toschool. With the exception of two co-researchers wholeft the regular school system abruptly for veryspecific reasons, the individuals in this study driftedrather than dropped out of school. For the youngpeople involved in this study, early school leaving hadits roots deeply embedded in a history of limitedschool involvement and success, ineffectual parenting,drug and alcohol abuse and economic hardship. The co-researchers did not leave the regular school programfor a single reason or simply because they were doingpoorly in school. At least two or more non-schoolrelated negative situations were present for the co-researchers at the time they were first thinking aboutleaving school before graduating.At the time of dropping out the co-researchers inthis study did not view going to school as beingparticularly important either for the present or fortheir future lives. School was at best irrelevant andat worst hostile. As one young man said, "Why am I136137here, and who cares." With little to hold them inschool, these young people began absenting themselvesfrom classes and finally from the entire schoolprogram.Among this group of students only one had beenpreviously repeated a grade, Grade 9. This does notsupport Kaplan & Luck's (1977) findings that up to halfof the dropouts had been held back at least once. Thismay be due at least in part to the increase since 1977in educational alternatives to repeating a school year.Although this study did not support Roderick's (1991)conclusion that the risk for dropping out of studentswho were retained at grade was attributable to theirbeing overage for their grade, it did find that 25% ofthe co-researchers were reluctant to return to theregular school program and chose to continue theireducation in the alternate program in part because ofbeing overage for their grade level.This study showed that the individuals who leftschool early exhibited developmental delay according toseveral theoretical frameworks. At the time ofdropping out of the regular program these individualsshowed difficulty in forming a clear identity whichaccording to Erickson (1963) is the critical task of138adolescence. Instead they showed role diffusion in theform of being unable to choose and plan a career.According to Kegan (1982) adolescents must be able tofunction at the Interpersonal meaning-making level tosucceed in secondary school tasks. The young people inthis study demonstrated that they were still completelyembedded in their own needs at the time of dropping outand therefore experienced anger and frustration atbeing unable to meet the  expectations of their familyand the school.This study also showed that the developmentaldelay was present for many of these young people inearly elementary school. According to Kegan, the roleof a father or other male figure is important in earlydevelopmental stages to balance the over-integration ofthe mother-child relationship. In light of the absenceof a father or the presence of a negative maleinfluence in 83% of those interviewed for this study,it is suggested that the developmental delay exhibitedby the co-researchers might be explained in part by thelack of a positive male influence in the familystructure.The end of the dropout period and the beginning ofthe return to school process was signaled by a movementtoward a new developmental balance exemplified by arenewed relationship with parents, individualfriendships and disengagement from a previously all-important peer group.Implications For The Secondary School SystemMany students will enter Grade 8 developmentallydelayed. Not much can be done to prevent the delay orto accelerate the rate of development. The school,however, has the opportunity to provide structureswhich will enable the delay to be experienced in a lessdestructive way. Transitions studies (Glaser &Strauss, 1971; Simmons, 1987) suggest that movement toa large secondary situation from a small elementarysetting may be very difficult for some students. Thisstudy corroborated those findings and suggests that thetransition difficulty may be exacerbated bydevelopmental delay. Hawkins & Berndt's (1985)research suggested that the individual school couldacknowledge and alleviate some of the transitiondifficulties by creating smaller, stable, intimatesubgroup environments within the school. This wouldalso mitigate the developmental delay by acknowledging139140the need of the young people at this stage for clearlydefined roles and for the young boys opportunities tobe autonomous and for the young girls, opportunities tointeract in a social environment.Implications For CounsellingCounsellors in the secondary school setting have aunique opportunity to observe the potential earlyschool leaver and to design interventions to mitigateagainst this possibility. If students seek counsellingbecause of relationship problems with teachers and poorachievement, the counsellor should check to see whetherthis student is experiencing these difficulties becauseof expectations on the part of the teacher that he orshe simply could not meet because of developmentaldelay. If this is the case then the counsellor is inthe position to discuss with the teacher thepossibility of modifying the program or theexpectations for the student so that the situationmight be alleviated.In a counselling setting outside of the schoolsystem, the counsellor might assess the relationship ofthe client to peers, peer groups and the family in141order to plan an intervention which would be mosteffective for the individual. If the individual is notat an Interpersonal developmental stage, then using atherapy based on a strong client-therapist relationshipmay not be effective and other strategies might bebetter employed.Implications For EmploymentThe young people in this study had not envisioneda career when they dropped out of school. They viewedemployment as a means to make money to supportthemselves and had no clear idea of what it meant to goto work on a regular basis nor how much money would beneeded to meet their needs and desires. Once they hadexperienced unemployment most of them decided to returnto school because they envisioned Grade 12 graduationto be the key which would open up their financialfuture. These young people still had no clear idea ofcareer and, given their developmental delay, probablywould not arrive at any clear idea for some time. Theschool system, even the alternate program in whichthese young people were enrolled would function tosupport them in their quest for a career. If, however,they should leave the school system again, theimmediate needs for financial security andinterpersonal relationships would work againstestablishing a career involving long term goals oftraining or education.Limitations of the StudyThe nature of this study limits thegeneralizability of the findings. The results of thisstudy are based upon a sample of students who havedropped out from large secondary programs in urban orsuburban settings in the lower mainland of BritishColumbia and returned to school via an academicalternate program. Some of the findings therefore maynot be applicable to other regions or rural settings.The study did not involve students from ethnicsubgroups such as First Nations, Asian or East Indianpopulations which make up a large proportion of manyBritish Columbia school populations. Their diversecultural backgrounds may involve the family, peer andschool experiences particularly in a different way thanwas experienced by the sample interviewed. As well,developmental issues may vary within the different142143ethnic populations and the exemplars of developmentaldelay may differ from the sample used in this study.Implications for Future ResearchGiven the ethnic similarity of the co-researchersin this study, further research involving ethnicminorities is warranted. As well, longitudinal studieslooking at the developmental progress of early schoolleavers would be particularly beneficial from the pointof view of career involvement. Transitional studieswhich looked at the movement from the alternate schoolsetting to other post secondary training or employmentwould be beneficial to see what has made these studentssuccessful in their career paths. Finally, furtherstudies involving the developmental issues as they aremet in junior high school settings and in the Grade 8to 12 school settings would be warranted. It would behelpful to know whether the junior high school settingwas more or less facilitative of developmental growththan the traditional Grade 8 to 12 school and if therewere significant differences in the dropout rate ornumber between those enrolled in the two differentsettings.144ReferencesArhar, J. (1990). The effects of interdisciplinaryteaming on the social bonding of middle levelstudents (Doctoral dissertation, University ofCincinnati, 1990). Dissertation AbstractsInternational, 52, 65A.Barber, L., & McClellan, M. (1987). Looking atAmerica's dropouts: Who are they? Phi Delta Kappan,69, 264-267.Bell, M. (1990). Effects of an urban alternative highschool dropout prevention and rehabilitation programon the attendance, attitude and academic achievementof at-risk students (Doctoral dissertation, OldDominion University, 1990). Dissertation AbstractsInternational, 51, 1185ABerndt, T. (1978). Developmental changes in conformityto peers and parents. Developmental Psychology, 15,608-616.Boyce, C. (1990). A study of teacher expectationsregarding student achievement in low and high-socioeconomic suburban elementary schools (Doctoraldissertation, University of Northern Colorado,1990). Dissertation Abstracts International, 51,1981A.145Carter, S. (1990). Dropout prevention: Current Stateof Michigan school programs for children at risk(Doctoral dissertation, Michigan State University,1990). Dissertation Abstracts International, 51,1490A.Egan, G. (1979). People in systems: A model fordevelopment in the human-service professions andeducation. Monterey: Brooks/Cole.Ekstrom, R., Goertz, M., Pollack, J., & Rock, D.(1986). Who drops out of high school and why?Findings from a national study. Teachers CollegeRecord, 87, 356-372.Erikson, E. (1963). Childhood and society (2nd ed.).New York: Norton.Erikson, E. (1964). Insight and responsibility. NewYork: Norton.Erikson, E. (1968). Identity: Youth and crisis. NewYork: Norton.Gilligan, C. (1987). Adolescent developmentreconsidered. In C. Irwin Jr. (Ed.), New directionsfor child development: Adolescent social behaviorand health (pp. 63-92). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Glaser, B., & Strauss, A. (1971). Status passage.Chicago: Aldine-Atherton.146Hahn, A. (1987). Reaching out to America's dropouts:What to do? Phi Delta Kappan, 69, 256-263.Hammack, F. (1986). Large school systems' dropoutreports: An analysis of definitions, procedures andfindings. Teachers College Record, 87, 324-341.Hawkins, J., & Berndt, T. (1985). Adjustment followingthe transition to junior high school. Paperpresented at the biennial meeting of the Society forResearch in Child Development, Toronto.Irwin, C., & Vaughan, E. (1988). Psychosocial contextof adolescent development. Journal of AdolescentHealth Care, 9, 11S-19S.Jarjoura, G. (1990). School status, employment status,and criminal activity in a large-scale nationalprobability sample (Doctoral dissertation,University of Maryland, College Park, 1990).Dissertations Abstracts International, 52, 691A.Kaplan, J., & Luck, E. (1977). The dropout phenomenonas a social problem. Educational Forum, 42, 41-56.Karp, E. (1988). The dropout phenomenon in Ontariosecondary schools: A report to the Ontario study ofthe relevance of education and the issue ofdropouts. Toronto: MGS Publications Services.147Kegan, R. (1982). The evolving self: Problem andprocess in human development. Cambridge: HarvardUniversity Press.Kiik, C. (1991). The relationship between attending aselected alternative school and retention in aMississippi high school (Doctoral dissertation, TheUniversity of Southern Mississippi, 1991).Dissertation Abstracts International, 52, 1281A.Kitchen, D. (1990). Ability grouping and dropping out(Doctoral dissertation, Claremont Graduate Schooland San Diego State University, 1990). DissertationAbstracts International, 51, 1978A-1979A.Kohlberg, L. (1969). Stage and sequence: Thecognitive-developmental approach to socialization.In D. Goslin (Ed.), Handbook of socialization:Theory and research. New York: Rand McNally.Kronick, R., & Hargis, C. (1990). Dropouts: Who dropsout and why and the recommended action.Springfield, ILL: Charles C. Thomas.Kunisawa, B. (1988). A nation in crisis: The dropoutdilemma. NEA Today, 6, 61-65.148Kvale, S. (1983). The quantitative interview: Aphenomenological and hermeneutical mode ofunderstanding. Journal of PhenomenologicalPsychology, 14, 171-196.Lakebrink, J. (Ed.). (1989). Children at risk.Springfield, ILL: Charles C. Thomas.Mann, D. (1986). Can we help dropouts? Thinking aboutthe undoable. Teachers College Record, 87, 307-323.McCaul, E. (1989). Personal, social, and economicconsequences of dropping out of school: Findingsfrom the High School and Beyond data source(Doctoral dissertation, University of Maine, 1989).Dissertation Abstracts International, 51, 1069A.McDill, E., Natriello, G., & Pallas, A. (1986). Apopulation at risk: The potential consequences oftougher standards for school dropouts. AmericanJournal of Education, 94, 135-181.Ministry of Education (1991). Annual Report for theProvince of British Columbia. Victoria, BC:Queen's Printer.149Ministry of Education and Ministry Responsible forMulticulturalism and Human Rights (1992). Adirectory of British Columbia school district'scommunity-based stay-in-school programs. Burnaby,BC: Yes Canada.Morrow, G. (1986). Standardizing practice in theanalysis of school dropouts. Teachers CollegeRecord, 87, 342-355.Mutadi, N. (1990). Common behaviors andcharacteristics of high school dropouts and theeffect of support strategies on dropout rates(Doctoral dissertation, Brigham Young, 1990).Dissertation Abstracts International, 52, 765.Neill, S. (1979). Keeping students in school: Problemsand solutions. Arlington, VA: American Associationof School Administrators.Newmann, F. (1989). Student alienation in highschools: Implications of theory. In L. Weiss, EFarrar, & H. Petrie (Eds.), Dropouts from school:Issues, dilemmas and solutions (pp. 153-177).Albany: State University of New York Press.Orr, M. (1987). Keeping students in school: A guide toeffective dropout prevention programs and services.San Fransisco: Jossey-Bass.150Outlaw, I. (1990). The effectiveness of dropoutprevention programs at five California high schools(Doctoral dissertation, Northern Arizona University,1989). Dissertation Abstracts International, 50,3435A.Peng, S. (1983). High school dropouts: Descriptiveinformation from High School and Beyond.Washington, DC: National Center for EducationStatistics.Piaget, J. (1969). The psychology of the child. NewYork: Harper Torchbooks.Pipal, V. (1991). Effects of an intervention programon the academic performance, school attendance, andschool behavior of high school students (Doctoraldissertation, University of the Pacific, 1991).Dissertation Abstracts International, 52, 1644A.Pipp, S., Shaver, P., Jennings, S., Lamborn, S., &Fisher, K. (1985). Adolescents' theories about thedevelopment of relationships with parents. Journalof Personality and Social Psychology, 48, 991-1001.Ralph, J. (1989). Improving education for thedisadvantaged: Do we know whom to help? Phi DeltaKappan, 70, 395-401.151Roderick, M. (1991). The path to dropping out amongpublic school youth: Middle school and early highschool experiences (Doctoral dissertation, HarvardUniversity, 1991). Dissertation AbstractsInternational, 52, 1644A.Rubenson, K. (1992). Participation in adult educationin British Columbia: An analysis of StatisticsCanada adult education and training surveys.Victoria: Queen's Printer.Rumberger, R. (1983). Dropping out of high school:The influence of race, sex, and family background.American Educational Research Journal, 20, 100-220.Santorufo, A. (1991). Ninth-grade orientation programsin California unified school districts (Doctoraldissertation, University of LaVerne, 1991).Dissertations Abstracts International, 52, 1281A.Seeley, F. (1990). A longitudinal study of ProjectTrio: A dropout prevention program in a large urbanenvironment (Doctoral dissertation, FloridaInternational University, 1990). DissertationAbstracts International, 51, 1980A.152Simmons, R. (1987). Social transitions and adolescentdevelopment. In C. Irwin Jr. (Ed.), New directionsfor child development: Adolescent social behaviorand health (pp. 33-62). San Fransisco: Jossey-Bass.Solomon, R. (1989). 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Curriculum development inalternative schools: A descriptive study (Doctoraldissertation, University of Nebraska - Lincoln,1986). Dissertation Abstracts International, 47,1176A.Trueba, H. (1989). Rethinking dropouts: Culture andliteracy for minority student empowerment. In H.Trueba, G. Spindler, & L. Spindler (Eds.), What doanthropologists have to say about dropouts? Thefirst centennial conference on children at risk.New York: The Falmer Press.Urban Superintendents Network (1987). Dealing withdropouts: The Urban Superintendent's call to action.Washington: Office of Educational Research andImprovement.Van Hestern, F. (1986). Counselling research in adifferent key: The promise of a human scienceperspective. Canadian Journal of Counselling, 20,200-233.154Waddell, M. (1990). A comparison of dropout andpersister characteristics in a suburban Pennsylvaniaschool district (Doctoral dissertation, LehighUniversity, 1990). Dissertations AbstractsInternational, 51, 1511A.Wehlage, G. (1989). Dropping out: Can schools beexpected to prevent it? In L. Weiss, E. Farrar, &H. Petrie (Eds.), Dropouts from school: Issues,dilemmas, and solutions (pp. 1-19). Albany, NY:State University of New York Press.Wehlage, G., & Rutter, R. (1986). Dropping out: Howmuch do schools contribute to the problem? TeachersCollege Record, 87, 373-392.Wehlage, G., Rutter, R., Smith, G., Lesko, N., &Fernandez, R., (1989). Reducing the risk: Schoolsas communities of support. New York: The FalmerPress.Young, R. (1986). Doing human science research: Areply to Van Hestern. Canadian Journal ofCounselling, 20, 239-241.155Zakowski, V. (1990). A study of the holding power ofvocational education for at-risk students attendingan alternative high school (Doctoral dissertation,University of Pittsburgh, 1990). DissertationAbstracts International, 51, 1499A.Appendix AConsent FormI agree to participate in a research project aboutearly school leaving. I also understand thatparticipation in this study is voluntary, that I amfree to withdraw at any time or to refuse to answer anyquestion, and that my involvement in no way affects myrelationship with the school. I am also aware that theinterviewer will answer any questions that I may haveat any time concerning this project.I understand that this project will require me totalk with an interviewer for about one hour about myexperience of considering dropping out of school. Ialso give my permission to have the interview recordedwith the understanding that the contents of theinterview will be kept confidential and used forresearch purposes only. This interview is to belabeled with a randomly selected number and is to beerased upon completion of the project.Signature of Participant^Telephone Number(form continued on next page)156Consent Form(continued from previous page)I have received a copy of this form and I consent / donot consent to my child's participation in this study.Signature of Parent or GuardianConnie Arcand, Researcher and Interviewer^DateDepartment of Counselling Psychology^822-5057Thesis Title: Experiential Dynamic of Early SchoolLeaving and Returning to an Alternate ProgramThesis Committee:Dr. - N. Amundson, Department of Counselling Psychology,University of British Columbia.Dr. W. Borgen, Department of Counselling Psychology,University of British Columbia.Dr. R. Chester, Department of Language EducationUniversity of British Columbia157Appendix BPilot StudyThe pilot interviewees were not selected from thepotential pool of co-researchers but rather fromindividuals identified by teachers as students who werepotential early school leavers. The teachers were notgiven any criteria by which to select students aspossible early school leavers. They were asked only ifthey knew of any student who they were concerned mightdrop out of school. The pilot interviewees wereselected from among the names of students who had beenidentified by two or more teachers. Following thefirst interview the pilot co-researcher was asked thefollowing questions:1. Were the questions I asked clear?2. Were there any questions you expected me to askthat I didn't?3. Did you feel that I understood your story?In response to the first question, the co-researcher indicated that he had some difficultyfiguring out what was wanted from the first interviewquestion; it didn't seem to relate to what he wantedto say. He felt that I had neither left out any158159questions nor had misunderstood his responses. Headded, however, in a burst of honesty, that he had beennervous at the beginning of the interview and that theinterviewer's non-directive responses, such as "uhhuh", had made him feel unsure about whether tocontinue or not. The researcher interpreted thisresponse as though the co-researcher had felt she hadnot really understood his story.In response to the pilot co-researcher's commentschanges were made to simplify the scope and wording ofthe interview questions. Specifically, the firstinterview question was revised to allow the co-researcher to become comfortable with the interviewprocess and to provide context for the remaininginterview questions. In addition, the researchermodified her responses to indicate more warmth andencouragement by using statements clarifying andsummarizing both content and feelings expressed by theco-researcher.The modified questions and researcher responseswere re-piloted and the co-researcher asked the samepost-interview questions as the first pilotinterviewee. The second pilot interviewee indicatedthat she found the questions clear and comprehensive160and that the researcher had understood her story. Sheexpressed bewilderment, however, as to why theresearcher had selected her for the pilot interview asshe had no intention of dropping out. This student wasa black female from a single parent, low SES family.Her attendance record was among the worst in theschool, her active parent had a long history of mentalinstability, two of her siblings had been in troublewith the law and had dropped out and she had run awayfrom home twice to the researcher's knowledge. Thisresponse to the interview questions was unexpected asthe researcher had anticipated that the student wouldperceive that she was "at risk" as her teachers clearlydid, but this was not the case.Appendix CValidity Summary for Co-researcher # 11 Researcher Could you tell me your story about what wasgoing on for you when you first thought about leavingschool?C: April 8, 1988, on my 16th birthday I got into anargument with my step-father over coming home late froma church group. My stepfather beat on me with closedfists and told me to leave if I wanted to. I ran awayfrom home at 3 a.m. and spend that night in a very coldand wet trailer. At that time I left school as wellbecause I could no longer handle being harassedunmercifully by other students and because my step-father would be able to find me if I continued toattend.Researcher: Could you draw a life-line from justbefore you thought of leaving school to right now?C: In 1987 there were a lot of family problems. I wasnot allowed to go out so I did not have many friends.My step-father was very abusive; he made me killanimals and watch him kill my dog. I was picked on byother kids and really hated myself. Things got161.162progressively worse and I began to set fires, steal andmake people angry with me. I ran away from home andfound new ways of escaping from reality, drugs andalcohol, which made me temporarily feel better,particularly as I now had "friends".I went to Vancouver for a time and lived with mysister. This was not a happy arrangement. I returnedto my parents and tried to go back to school but felt Iwas too weird for school and couldn't handle it. In1990, after being raped, I turned again to my parentsfor help. They put me in a detox centre and I began toget treatment and entered A.A. I am now living with mymother and my third step-father in what is a good homeenvironment. I have attended Amigos for one year.Researcher: Are you considering leaving school rightnow?C: No, not until I graduate. I am currently workingat the Grade 10 - 11 level and I have finished twocourses since I started. I plan to graduate next yearat this time.Researcher: What would have to happen for you to leaveschool?C: I would have to start drinking again or have amental breakdown. I feel supported in this program163because I have friends in the program who like me andwho I like.Researcher: Was there any individual who stand out asbeing important in your schooling?C: My Grade 5 teacher because he was strict and hadcharisma and was intelligent and witty. He inspired meto do some things.Researcher: How do you see your future unfolding?C: I hope to become an actor but I am not completelyset on this as a career. I want to be happy in what Ido. I am staying in "today", handling one day at atime.Researcher: What do you think it is important that Iunderstand about what went on for you when you werethinking of leaving school?C: I feel strongly that it wasn't anyone else's fault.Kids should care about themselves and their future moreso that they would not be victimized as I was. I foundthat I couldn't run away or hide from my problems withdrugs and alcohol. I also think that the high schoolsystem would be better if the students all had assignedteachers as they did in elementary grades so that thestudent would have a more personal relationship withthe teacher and be able to talk about his problems.164This statement was read in a telephone conversation toC. (co-researcher # 11), July 2, 1991. He found thatthe statement was accurate and complete.040^4-) gWUl CU^PPtC W^4-)04 04-)O wUg PP^0 CU 144oCU)a)0=P^P^cct04-10^gU)4.3(0g0C g0 PCU C0 0rlg4a)(c1>444-) cct^bCU^CUcct 4-)CU^CU1-14-1 PgasW CU4U).01-4 O4 4 Z.4g1:41-41:14 1:4 a)UtUf-1oo 4-14 PU Wa)coVa)0^a)WAppendix DCategory Rating SheetCo—researcher Number  16 165i A x x2. X3 ^ X X X XX X X5 A x xx X X1 X ^8 x9 x v/0 X )( x )(R11 ^ va x i<13 A/Appendix EChecked Category Rating SheetCo-researcher Number Lis 44igWR kW W41 4(13 04) 0CA ZW'011:13404r-I-4-10(CI44WPWW1144--Ia)0r-I 00 00 CO4 $4C.) WCO 04WUzRI'0gW-1-)4)4WC.)gRIgr-I P0 00 4-I4 $4U Wu) 134o40r-I4W0U■.000c)4441o4o43tfl^W0Ug 0fct •--1g-PI 00-1-1^Sa-1-)^004 4)W 00 44S-4W 44U)a)■—I -4-1ni 41U-ri-,I>CO -I-I31 >4 4)rii .0 0a 114 e:4r-IM4.10WZ---f-1-ri'CIWZ04.417W >al bW^cl)(X 4100000(00=g00-HOP00-r13404.4VI 0fa 4)cll wZ f:4r-IM-.-141Zr-1^tn4-4 P= wI--1^C14a)00=".--- gtr--1P> 0cocu^CD4 %In4)4-40TS.Pa)4.I.)0a)U)0.041/ X X X Xgo )(3 ^ x X X Xq X X X X6/ x X XX 1/ XI X8 >< X9 X ^/0 V X X )(R II ^ ^/a x x )(166

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