News Update on School Organization : Feb 2022

Dropping Out of High School: The Role of School Organization and Structure

In this study, we explore how high schools, through their structures and organization, may influence students’ decisions to stay in school or drop out. Traditional explanations for dropout behavior have focused on students’ social background and academic behaviors. What high schools might do to push out or hold students has received less empirical scrutiny. Using a sample of 3,840 students in 190 urban and suburban high schools from the High School Effectiveness Supplement of the National Educational Longitudinal Study of 1988, we apply multilevel methods to explore schools’ influence on dropping out, taking into account students’ academic and social background. Our findings center on schools’ curriculum, size, and social relations. In schools that offer mainly academic courses and few nonacademic courses, students are less likely to drop out. Similarly, students in schools enrolling fewer than 1,500 students more often stay in school. Most important, students are less likely to drop out of high schools where relationships between teachers and students are positive. The impact of positive relations, however, is contingent on the organizational and structural characteristics of high schools.[1]

The Effects of High School Organization on Dropping Out: An Exploratory Investigation

A hierarchical linear model analysis (Raudenbush & Bryk, 1986) is used to investigate directly the effects of structural and normative features of schools on both the probability of dropping out and the strongest behavioral predictor of dropping out, absenteeism. We hypothesized that high levels of internal differentiation within high schools and weak normative environments contribute to the problems of absenteeism and dropping out. Conversely, these student behaviors should be less problematic in school contexts where there is less differentiation among students and strong normation. The empirical results reported in this paper support these hypotheses. No single factor makes schools effective in sustaining student interest and commitment. Rather, a constellation of both structural and normative features appears to be involved. The analyses also provide some support for the contention that special benefits accrue to disadvantaged and at-risk youth from attending certain kinds of schools.[2]

Educational Technology and School Organization

It is plain from the newspapers and trade journals that the new technology is the educational phenomenon of the moment. American schools always seem to have at least one such animal in residence, and microcomputers may retain this favored position for some time. But it also seems likely that this new technology will not work precisely as its sponsors hope: Perhaps it will not be adopted as widely as they wish-or more quickly, or widely, than anticipated. In addition, many teachers will not use it in the prescribed doses. Evaluations, of course, will show that the new technology is “working” for some schools and students, but “not working” for many others. Educators and policymakers will want to know why. Researchers will be invited to investigate and explain.[3]

How High School Organization Influences the Equitable Distribution of Learning in Mathematics and Science

Using a sample of 9,631 students in 789 U.S. high schools with three waves of data from the National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988, the study presented here was an extension of an earlier study that found positive effects for practices that are consistent with the restructuring movement on learning in the first two years of high school and on the equitable distribution of learning by social class. The current study identified the characteristics of high school organization that are positively related to learning in mathematics and science and to equity during the first and last two years of high school and investigated whether such organizational factors explain the results of the earlier study. It found that although students learn somewhat less in the last two years than in the first two years, several features of the social and academic organization of high schools are strongly associated with learning in both periods.[4]

A Theory of School and Classroom Organization

This chapter presents a theory of school and classroom organization based on Carroll’s “Model of School Learning”, which attempts to identify the critical elements of school and classroom organization and their interrelationships. The emphasis of the organizational perspective on instruction is not on micro-level teaching behaviors but rather on the school and classroom policies and practices that create the context within which teaching takes place, the aspects of instruction over which the “video teacher” has no control. Given a relatively fixed set of resources, every innovation in classroom organization solves some problems but also creates new problems which must themselves be solved. The QAIT (Quality, Appropriateness, Incentive, Time) model is designed primarily to clarify the tradeoffs involved in alternative fonns of classroom organization. The QAIT model can be easily related to instructional efficiency and engaged lime. Instructional efficiency is a product of the quality of instruction.[5]


[1] Lee, V.E. and Burkam, D.T., 2003. Dropping out of high school: The role of school organization and structure. American educational research journal, 40(2), pp.353-393.

[2] Bryk, A.S. and Thum, Y.M., 1989. The effects of high school organization on dropping out: An exploratory investigation. American Educational research journal, 26(3), pp.353-383.

[3] Cohen, D.K., 2013. Educational technology and school organization. In Technology in education (pp. 249-282). Routledge.

[4] Lee, V.E., Smith, J.B. and Croninger, R.G., 1997. How high school organization influences the equitable distribution of learning in mathematics and science. Sociology of education, pp.128-150.

[5] Slavin, R.E., 2013. A theory of school and classroom organization. In School and classroom organization (pp. 3-22). Routledge.

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