Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Kimberley Alkins


The high school dropout rate in the United States has historically been and continues to remain a persistent concern. The dropout epidemic has primarily been studied through a quantitative lens focused on the final decision to dropout rather than the complex sequence of events that factor into the dropout decision. The purpose of this study was to explore the pull/push factors that influenced a student's decision to drop out of high school. In this qualitative study, attention was given to both understanding how students described their reasons for dropping out of school and identification of any factors that could have led them to remain in school and earn a diploma. The conceptual framework was based on pull/push factors related to students dropping out. Through a case study design, 10 participants, classified as dropouts by the selected research site, were interviewed about the influence of the push/pull factors of poverty, absence, and engagement in their decision to drop out of school. Data were analyzed through an iterative process wherein patterns were discerned appropriately. The findings support 4 central influences that serve as both pull and push factors in the decision to drop out: disinterest/disengagement, teacher connection, a sense of hopelessness, and an end to any desire to succeed in school. Furthermore, the findings support the development of school and district-wide identification and intervention programs that make relationships with students the foundation and guide educators and local policy makers in making decisions that support student success and increase the likelihood a student at risk for dropping out would remain in school and earn a high school diploma.