Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Curriculum and Instruction (PhD)

Degree Level



Curriculum and Instruction


Janet Penner-Williams

Committee Member

Christopher J. Lucas

Second Committee Member

Tom E. Smith


Education, At-risk, Graduation, High school drop outs, Involvement, Parents, Phenomenology


The purpose of this study is to describe the experiences and perceptions of parents whose children did not receive a high school diploma. This subpopulation has been rarely studied. The central question is, "What are the perceptions and experiences of the parents of public high school dropouts as they pertain to schools, their children, and themselves?"

This phenomenological study examined the lived experience of the parents of high school dropouts. Five women and one man participated in the study by sitting for interviews. The collected interview data was transcribed and analyzed using qualitative methodology including open and axial coding as well as textural-structural description. The results of the study revealed six emergent themes: Bright Child, Involved Parent(s), Medical Issues, Unfair School, Troubled Home, and, Behavior Issues.

Two of the themes corroborated previous research: Troubled Home, and, Behavior Issues. However, other themes ran contrary to existing perceptions and highlighted gaps in available research. Bright Child challenged the perception and some research suggesting that school achievement is a strong indicator of at-risk status. Involved Parent(s) contradicts notions that the parents of at-risk students are uninvolved or uncaring. Unfair School is somewhat supported in the literature, but not enough research has been done to validate the implication that at-risk students and their parents are treated less favorably than their peers. Medical Issues reveals another gap in dropout research. Though this issue is widely addressed in special education research as it relates to disabilities, the relationship between health and achievement is largely unexplored in dropout literature.