Joseph S. Renzulli
While the issue of high school dropouts has received much attention, the subject of dropouts among gifted and talented students has not been adequately addressed in research studies. Moreover, some research studies focusing on gifted dropouts used only IQ to identify gifted students. Using such a restricted definition of giftedness may cause a misunderstanding of gifted dropouts. This study was conducted to obtain more comprehensive information about gifted high school dropouts and to examine factors related to gifted students’ dropout behavior using a more flexible definition of the gifted.
For this study, the National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988 (NELS:88) data base, which was a longitudinal study conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), was used to address research questions. The NELS:88 began in 1988 by collecting data on approximately 25,000 eighth grade students, including data from their parents, teachers, and school administrators, and then followed up at 2-year intervals. Two computerized database studies were conducted using different samples. In Study 1, the Second Follow-up Dropout Questionnaire was directly analyzed to obtain specific information about gifted dropouts regarding their reasons for leaving school, parents’ reactions, use of time, future career plans, relationships with parents and peers, and self-concepts. In Study 2, student questionnaires were analyzed mainly to examine personal/educational factors related to the gifted students’ dropout behavior.
The results from Study 1 indicated that (a) many gifted students left school because they were failing school, didn’t like school, got a job, or were pregnant, although there are many other related reasons, (b) most parents whose gifted child dropped out of school were not actively involved in their child’s decision to drop out of school, (c) many gifted students who dropped out of school participated less in extracurricular activities, (d) few gifted students who dropped out of school had plans to return to school, and (e) gifted students who dropped out of school had higher self-concepts than non-gifted students who dropped out of school. The results from Study 2 indicated that (a) many gifted students who dropped out of school were from low SES families and racial minority groups, (b) gifted students who dropped out of school had parents with low levels of education, (c) gifted students who dropped out of school had used marijuana more than gifted students who completed school, and (d) dropout behavior for gifted students was significantly related to students’ educational aspirations, pregnancy or child-rearing, gender, father’s highest level of education, and mother’s highest level of education.
Giftedness and High School Dropouts: Personal, Family, and School-related Factors
Joseph S. Renzulli
Analysis of Dropout Questionnaire
- Many of the gifted male students left school because they were failing school, got a job, could not keep up with their schoolwork, and did not like school.
- Gifted female students left school because they did not like school, were pregnant, became a parent, or were failing school.
- Many of the parents whose child dropped out of school tried to talk him or her into staying in school, but not many of them offered counseling services to their children.
Analysis of Student Questionnaire
- Almost half the gifted dropout students (48.2%) were in the lowest quartile SES level, while only 3.6% of them were in the highest quartile SES level.
- More Hispanic and Native Americans dropped out of school than White and Asian Americans.
- A high percentage of gifted dropouts’ fathers and mothers did not finish high school (father: 40%, mother: 25.6%) or graduated only high school (father: 23%, mother: 35.9%).
- Of the gifted students, 5% dropped out of school.