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Social Capital and Dropping Out of High School: Benefits to At-Risk Students of Teachers' Support and Guidance


by Robert G. Croninger & Valerie E. Lee — 2001

Do teachers provide students with valuable forms of social capital? Do these forms of social capital increase the likelihood that students complete high school, particularly students who are at risk of failure? Using data from the National Educational Longitudinal Study (NELS:88), we address these questions and examine whether social capital reduces the likelihood of dropping out between the 10th and 12th grades for a cohort of 11,000 adolescents who attended more than 1,000 public and private high schools between 1990 and 1992. We measure social capital in two ways: (a) students’ beliefs about how much their 10th-grade teachers support their efforts to succeed in school and (b) teachers’ reports about whether individual 10th-grade students receive guidance from them about school or personal matters. We find that teachers are an important source of social capital for students. These teacher-based forms of social capital reduce the probability of dropping out by nearly half. However, students who come from socially disadvantaged backgrounds and who have had academic difficulties in the past find guidance and assistance from teachers especially helpful. We discuss the implications of these findings for investigations of dropping out, risk, and social capital.


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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 103 Number 4, 2001, p. 548-581
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 10776, Date Accessed: 10/23/2014 8:25:42 AM

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About the Author
  • Robert Croninger
    University of Maryland
    E-mail Author
    ROBERT G. CRONINGER is an assistant professor in the Department of Education Policy and Leadership at the University of Maryland. His research focuses on how education policies and practices affect the educational opportunities of students from different social and economic backgrounds. He teaches courses in education policy, the sociology of education, and quantitative research methods.
  • Valerie Lee
    University of Michigan
    VALERIE E. LEE is a professor of education at the University of Michigan. Her research interests focus on issues of educational equity. Her recent research has focused on (a) high schools divided into schools-within- schools, (b) instructional effects on learning in Chicago elementary schools, and (c) early childhood educational contexts that are especially effective for children in poverty. She teaches courses in the sociology of education and advanced quantitative research methods.
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