Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Peter P. Kiriakidis


Over the last 5 years, high school students with disabilities in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) have experienced a higher rate of dropout compared to their peers, adding to an ever-widening gap in learning and graduation rates. The rationale for this study was the growing numbers of dropouts among students with disabilities that contribute to high rates of poor performing schools and create a burden on the local and federal government as the CNMI employment rates decline and reliance on the U.S. government for support increases. The purpose of this study was to understand the experiences of students with disabilities who drop out of high school, their perceptions of the learning environment, and the factors that contributed to their decisions to drop out. The conceptual framework was the constructivist theory. To answer what influenced high school students with disabilities to drop out of school and to what extent their perceptions of the constructivist element of belonging, engagement, or advocacy contributed to their decision to drop out, a qualitative case study design was used. Interviews were conducted with 10 former students who dropped out between 2013 and 2016 school years from high schools in the CNMI. Thematic analysis was used for emergent themes. Findings included that students do not receive their high school diploma because school policies prevented them due to age and lack of credits. Poor learning environments hindered students' engagement. Poor teachers' advocacy also hindered students' graduation. The findings can be used by school district leaders and staff in the implementation of effective interventions for improving graduation outcomes for students with disabilities in order for these students to become contributing members of society through gainful employment and enhanced quality of life.