November 21, 2006
For immediate release
A dropout prevention program developed by UC Santa Barbara researchers has been proven to reduce the dropout rate among Latino middle school students by 88 percent. Two percent of the students in the program, known as ALAS (Achievement for Latinos through Academic Success), dropped out of school between the seventh and ninth grades, compared to 17 percent of equivalent students who did not receive the program.
The program was certified by the U.S. Department of Education’s What Works Clearinghouse (WWC), which was established in 2002 to provide educators, policymakers, researchers, and the public with a central and trusted source of scientific evidence of what works in education. Only 3 of 14 studies evaluated by the WWC to date have met the highest standards of evidence. Not only was ALAS one of these three studies, it also had the largest effectiveness rating of the three programs. Because the ALAS program was conducted as a single, pilot study, it was found to have “potentially positive effects,” the second highest rating awarded by the WWW.
While a researcher and lecturer at UCSB’s Gevirtz School, Katherine Larson led a team that developed ALAS (which means wings in Spanish). The group, working with Professor Russ Rumberger, created a middle school (or junior high school) intervention designed to address student, school, family, and community factors that affect dropping out. Each student is assigned a counselor who monitors attendance, behavior, and academic achievement. The counselor provides feedback and coordinates students, families, and teachers. Counselors also serve as advocates for students and intervene when problems are identified. Students are trained in problem-solving skills, and parents are trained in parent-child problem solving, how to participate in school activities, and how to contact teachers and school administrators to address issues.
Various training courses addressing strategies used in the intervention will be available to elementary through high school teachers, counselors, and administrators in early spring 2007.
[Katherine Larson is available for interviews; to arrange an interview, contact George Yatchisin at 805 893 5789]