Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Moyen, Eric A.

Committee Member

Prince, Debra L.

Committee Member

Coats, Linda T.

Committee Member

King, Stephanie B.

Date of Degree


Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access


Elementary, Middle, and Secondary Education Administration

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D)


College of Education


Department of Leadership and Foundations


The dropout rate for many Mississippi high schools has improved tremendously over the last decade. In 2017, the Mississippi Department of Education reported that the dropout rate for the State declined form 13.9% to 10%. This rate was only 4% higher than the national average. However, with all the research that pertains to student dropouts and the success many states are seeing, there are still school districts failing to show improvement. Many high schools have dropout rates in excess of 20%. This study explored the perceptions of district high school principals, counselors, and other administrators working in schools with students who are at risk of dropping out. It examined the prevention practices or strategies that are the most effective in improving dropout rate conditions. The theoretical framework of this study was the theory of experience and experiential learning theory addressed by Dewey, Neill, and Kolb. Dewey (1916) argued that students could not control their previous experiences, but once a student understood the importance of engaging in the learning and the implications of persisting in school they could then take ownership of their learning and succeed. The importance of this involved student motivation and engagement. Kolb (1984) further developed this theory with the concept of a student’s learning style to help individuals identify the way they learn from experience. Hence, helping students engage in learning by internalizing its value to students remained a primary concept. Data collection methods included surveys, interviews, and a review of participating school’s dropout prevention plans. The results of this study indicated that successful schools are using dropout prevention plans which may be emulated or duplicated in other schools. The components of such plans are directly connected to the themes that emerged from successful school leaders regarding student persistence in high school. The study found that key elements for a successful program included the following: community collaborations, leadership development, teaching and learning practices, and support from district level leadership. It was determined that the administrators and counselors believed that they were capable of meeting the needs of their students through various programs, district initiatives, teacher and leadership development, and the involvement of all stakeholders which were the leading factors to their success. All of these elements were required in order to see substantive gains in student dropout rate.