Using structural equation modeling to asses two theoretical models that explain dropout

Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Social Welfare

First Advisor's Name

Miriam Potocky

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

S.Lee Woods

Third Advisor's Name

Frederick L. Newman

Fourth Advisor's Name

Rosa Jones

Date of Defense



This study evaluated the relative fit of both Finn's (1989) Participation-Identification and Wehlage, Rutter, Smith, Lesko and Fernandez's (1989) School Membership models of high school completion to a sample of 4,597 eighth graders taken from the National Educational Longitudinal Study of 1988 , (NELS:88), utilizing structural equation modeling techniques. This study found support for the importance of educational engagement as a factor in understanding academic achievement. The Participation-Identification model was particularly well fitting when applied to the sample of high school completers, dropouts (both overall and White dropouts) and African-American students. This study also confirmed the contribution of school environmental factors (i.e., size, diversity of economic and ethnic status among students) and family resources (i.e., availability of learning resources in the home and parent educational level ) to students' educational engagement. Based on these findings, school social workers will need to be more attentive to utilizing macro-level interventions (i.e., community organization, interagency coordination) to achieve the organizational restructuring needed to address future challenges. The support found for the Participation-Identification model supports a shift in school social workers' attention from reactive attempts to improve the affective-interpersonal lives of students to proactive attention to their academic lives. The model concentrates school social work practices on the central mission of schools, which is educational engagement. School social workers guided by this model would be encouraged to seek changes in school policies and organization that would facilitate educational engagement.



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