Building Blocks of a GradNation

A Research Brief on Assets for Keeping Young People in School

Much has been written about how to prevent students from leaving high school before graduating, and which life experiences or risk factors may lead a young person to drop out. Less is known, however, about what promotes the attainment of a high school diploma.

In order to help all young people stay on the path to graduation, it is important to consider the influences in their lives that lead to on-time graduation.

The Center for Promise research team reviewed the last 25 years of empirical studies on high school graduation (182 articles in total). Using Urie Bronfenbrenner’s bio-ecological framework as a guide, we looked at five categories, or what Bronfenbrenner refers to as “ecological levels,” that impact a young person’s development – individual (attitudes and beliefs), family, peers, school and community. Within those levels, we identified specific assets which may positively impact a young person’s decision to stay in and graduate from high school.

The latest research brief from the Center for Promise, The Building Blocks of a GradNation: Assets for Keeping Young People in School, reveals the following assets that emerged through our analysis:

Individual Assets

  • Expectations for academic attainment or achievement
  • Intrinsic academic motivation or personal desire to achieve
  • School engagement
  • Internal locus of control – a sense of control over ones’ future

Family Assets

  • Parent Academic Involvement
  • Parent-Adolescent Connection

Peer Assets

  • Peer Academic Norms, how peers achieve academically

School Assets

  • Positive Student-Teacher Relationships
  • Extra-curricular Activities

Community Assets

  • Out-of-school Time Programs

These influential assets provide policymakers, practitioners and others with insight into where programs and investments can be directed in order to optimize students’ chances of finishing high school. Four specific considerations for policy and practice emerged from this review:

  • Encourage students to believe in themselves and continue to remain engaged in school.
  • Promote connections with parents, peers and teachers.
  • Schools and community-based institutions can foster positive attitudes and connect young people with social resources.
  • A holistic approach is needed.

The Center for Promise is the research institute for America’s Promise Alliance, housed at Boston University’s School of Education, dedicated to understanding what young people need to thrive and how to create the conditions of success for all young people. For questions or comments about this research brief, email [email protected]