Vanessa Barrat and BethAnn Berliner
Characteristics and education outcomes of Utah high school dropouts who re-enrolled
While numerous studies have examined the national dropout crisis, comparatively little is known about students who drop out but later return to high school. Following a cohort of students expected to graduate from Utah public schools in 2011 after four years of high school, this report describes the extent of dropout and reenrollment statewide; how dropout and reenrollment rates differed by demographic characteristics; how academic progress differed for re-enrollees prior to leaving school compared to students who graduated without an interruption in enrollment and dropouts who did not return; and the final high school outcomes of dropouts who came back to school. Findings indicate that while three-fourths of the students in the 2011 graduating cohort earned a diploma in four years, about a fifth of the students dropped out and, among them, about a fifth returned to school by 2011. Students with certain demographic characteristics were more likely to drop out and less likely to reenroll, such as Black students and English learner students, putting them at particular risk for not graduating. The percentage of dropouts who reenrolled decreased with each year of school, but some re-enrollees still earned a diploma. Among those who had dropped out and reenrolled by 2011, 26 percent graduated on time with the cohort. Among those who dropped out and reenrolled by 2013—extending the analysis two years beyond the conventional four years of high school—the graduation rate for re-enrollees increased to 30 percent. Results show that while dropping out is not necessarily a permanent outcome, re-enrollees as a group are at risk for poor graduation outcomes. Identifying and supporting dropouts who return for another chance to graduate can boost their chances to earn a diploma.
Vanessa Barrat is a Senior Research Associate with WestEd’s Regional Educational Laboratory West (REL West), Vanessa Barrat performs research to improve the practice and policy of education with a focus on at-risk student populations such as students dropping out of high school, students with disabilities, students in foster care, and English learners. Barrat's research in education policy is included in WestEd reports disseminated nationwide to education stakeholders.
Her most recent report, School Mobility, Dropout, and Graduation Rates Across Student Disability Categories in Utah, presents mobility, dropout, and graduation rates for students with disabilities as a group and by each of the disability categories. The report highlights the heterogeneity of education outcomes among students with disabilities.
In 2013 Barrat co-authored The Invisible Achievement Gap: Education Outcomes of Students in Foster Care in California's Public Schools. This first-of-its-kind analysis linked data from California’s education and child welfare systems to create a statewide education snapshot of students in foster care. The report revealed a previously invisible achievement gap between children in foster care and other at-risk students and served as a catalyst for change.
The Invisible Achievement Gap has established a baseline of education indicators for California’s students in foster care from which the state expects to see growth, and helped establish a process for data-sharing between the state education and child welfare agencies.
Prior to joining WestEd, Barrat worked as a Research Analyst for Acumen, LLC and SRI International. Barrat received a MS in econometrics from Pantheon-Sorbonne University—Paris 1, and a pre-doctoral degree in economic analysis and policy from l'Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Science Sociale in Paris.
BethAnn Berliner is a Senior Researcher and Project Director at WestEd, BethAnn Berliner focuses on school and community-based interventions for student success.
Since joining WestEd, her work has contributed to the academic and behavioral growth of K-12 students; knowledge and skills of the adults who support them in school and community settings; and policies for promoting their academic success. Partnering with schools, universities, government and community agencies, and foundations, Berliner’s research informs policy and practice, particularly for student groups with significant achievement gaps.
Her areas of expertise include dropout prevention, students without homes, students in foster care, students with disabilities, students enrolled in alternative schools, and multiple pathways for postsecondary transitions. As a result of her leadership, Berliner’s research on dropout recovery has been widely cited. Working directly with underserved communities, her work has resulted in a number of beneficial after-school, tutoring, mentoring, gang prevention, and youth development programs.
Prior to joining WestEd, Berliner directed a number of programs for assault victims, youth offenders, students with disabilities, and homeless families. Additionally, as a research historian and archivist, she curated photograph and manuscript collections and authored studies of 19th and 20th century school reform. Berliner serves as a board member at agencies in her community. She received an MA in social history from the University of Colorado and an MPA in public policy from San Francisco State University.