Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership (EdD)

Degree Level



Curriculum and Instruction


John C. Pijanowski

Committee Member

Ed Bengston

Second Committee Member

Daniel Brian Kissinger


Education, Dropouts, Expectancy-values, Graduates, High schools, Southeast Kansas


This qualitative study takes a deeper look into the lived experiences of students in southeast Kansas who have dropped out of high school. As a result, school and community leaders are better informed to create effective strategy, policy, and practice in dropout prevention.

Framed as a phenomenology, data was collected by conducting in-depth, face-to-face interviews with 12 participants and a focus-group interview with four participants. The researcher administered a survey/questionnaire to an additional 15 participants. Utilizing the Streamlined Codes-To-Theory Model (Saldana, 2009); organizational, structural, and elaborative coding techniques were implemented to reduce the data into categories, which led to the establishment of common themes and conclusions for the study.

The findings indicate the most common reasons participants share for their decision to drop out relates to negative school experiences, followed closely by life-events occurring outside of the school culture. Many participants stated that there was nothing anyone could have said or done to keep them in school; however, almost half said they might have been persuaded to stay in school if conditions were different. The overriding conclusion was that students who dropped out lacked the appropriate motivation to finish or complete the desired goal, to graduate. This was explained by applying the Expectancy-Value Theory of Achievement Motivation (Keller, 1987) to the study.

This study concludes that dropout can be reduced by increasing the value a student places in having an education or being connected to the school. Further, chances of completing the diploma requirements can be greatly enhanced by increasing students' confidence in their own ability to be successful.