School dropout prevention continues to exercise the mind of policy makers in many countries. The European Ministers of Education (2003), for example, established several reform targets for education systems in Europe for the year 2010 including increased participation in the upper end of second level schooling and the reduction of non-completion rates. In the USA the Department of Education established within its confines the Institute for Educational Sciences (IES), one of whose units is known as “What Works Clearing House” (WWC). The role of WWC is to be a central and trusted source of scientific evidence for what works in education. It reviews extant research about programs, policies or practices and assesses the “quality” of the research. Based on the research that meets particular standards, the WWC then reports on what the research indicates about the effectiveness of the program, policy or practice, which can be abbreviated as “the intervention”.
The WWC produces three types of reports and a guide:
- intervention reports which assess all studies of a specific intervention within a topic area, rating each of them on WWC evidence standards;
- topic reports which compile the information from intervention reports within a topic area and enable WWC users to easily compare the ratings of effectiveness and sizes of effects for numerous interventions in one area;
- quick reviews designed to provide education practitioners with timely and objective assessments of the quality of the research evidence for recently released research papers and reports, and
- practice guides that contain practical recommendations for educators to address challenges in their classrooms and schools.
School dropout prevention is one of the topic areas of the WWC. Evidence for following three outcomes is rated for effectiveness:
- Staying in school
- Progressing in school
- Completing school.
Educational and vocational guidance are to be found as part of many dropout prevention strategies but they are only one element of a multidimensional approach to proving solutions to school dropout.
The WWC section on school dropout prevention is essential viewing for all policy makers, researchers and practitioners concerned with this problem.