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Ream & Rumberger 2008

Ream & Rumberger 2008 - Student Engagement Peer...

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Student Engagement, Peer Social Capital, and School Dropout Among Mexican American and Non-Latino White Students Robert K. Ream University of California at Riverside Russell W. Rumberger University of California at Santa Barbara Policy makers are especially concerned about persistently high dropout rates among U.S. Latinos, the largest minority population in the United States. This study used a national longi- tudinal database to show that the behavioral and social aspects of schooling are dynamically linked in the process of school completion and dropout among Mexican American and non- Latino white adolescents. In contrast to the tendency of academically disengaged students to develop street-oriented friendships, students who are involved in school tend to befriend oth- ers who also make schooling a priority. Thus, student engagement influences competing friendship networks in a manner that contributes to the completion of school. Furthermore, engagement behaviors and school-oriented friendship networks have the potential to reduce dropout rates. To their social and educational detriment, however, Mexican American students appear to be less engaged in unorganized academic endeavors and formally sponsored extracurricular activities than are white students. The results of this study support policies that combine targeted educational and social reforms to bolster school completion among Mexican origin youths. Sociology of Education 2008, Vol. 81 (April): 109–139 109 I mproving high school dropout and gradu- ation rates continues to be a formidable educational challenge in the United States. Each year almost half a million students drop out of school (U.S. Census Bureau 2007:Table 7). An even greater number, approximately one-third of all students who enter high school in the ninth grade, fail to graduate four years later (Rumberger 2008; Swanson 2004). Graduation rates among underrepre- sented minority students—particularly Latinos 1 and African Americans—are even lower (Alliance for Excellent Education 2007). Only slightly more than half of Latino and black students graduate from high school on time with a regular diploma (Kelly 2005). In many states, the difference between white and minority graduation rates is as much as 50 percentage points (Editorial Projects in Education 2007). Moreover, the gap in pros- perity between high school graduates and dropouts has been increasing (U.S. Department of Education 2004: Indicator 14). Dropouts are twice as likely to be unem- Delivered by Ingenta to : University of South Carolina Tue, 18 Aug 2009 17:45:49
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110 Ream and Rumberger ployed, and for those who work, advance- ment is limited, the pay is low (the average high school dropout earns just 37 cents for every dollar earned by a high school gradu- ate), and health insurance is not readily avail- able (Rouse 2005; Steinberg, Johnson, and Pennington 2006). The fact that the popula- tion base of U.S. voters and workers will increasingly be made up of persons whose amount of education is significantly below the rest of the nation’s populace (Miller 1995;
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