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School Completion Principles

Helping youth to stay in school until they graduate is, simply put, the most important part of our job as special educators. This challenge – and it proves to be a challenge for many of our students – can best be met by appreciating underlying features of school completion. Our research conducted by the Language, Reading, and Exceptionalities Department at Appalachian State University draws upon the results of over 600 interviews and 4,000 surveys with high school youth to offer a foundation for the following four principles of school completion.

First, students must have a reason to want to complete high school. For instance, the most influential reason for wanting to complete school is the idea that a high school education will prepare them for their next role in life, be it as an employee or college student.

Second, students need (and, to the surprise of many, want) access to an adult who will encourage them to stay in school and help them to succeed. For many, parents fill this role, but a number of our students lack access to adults who can suitably fill this role in their lives.

Third, success in high school requires that students have the skills necessary for succeeding in today's high-stakes environment, including knowledge of how to learn, access to technological tools that help them access important information, and strategies that promote success on today's measures of performance.

Fourth, students who stay in school often have found a way to become engaged in the non-academic side of school. Be it sport, club, or group, these activities provide an avenue for youth to find a sense of competency in who they are.

Contributed by Larry Kortering, Professor, Department of Language, Reading and Exceptionalities, Appalachian State University, Boone, North Carolina. For additional information about or findings of the research he may be contacted at 828/262-6060.



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Citation: Gaylord, V., Johnson, D.R., Lehr, C.A., Bremer, C.D. & Hasazi, S. (Eds.). (2004). Impact: Feature Issue on Achieving Secondary Education and Transition Results for Students with Disabilities, 16(3). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, Institute on Community Integration. Available from


The print design version (PDF, 671 K, 36 pp.) of this issue of Impact is also available for free, complete with the color layout and photographs. This version looks the most like the newsletter as it was printed.

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