Communicative practices that lead to timely high school graduation against all odds: A positive deviance inquiry in a predominantly Hispanic school

Patricia T Ayala, University of Texas at El Paso

Abstract

The school dropout rate among Hispanics is a major financial, educational, and public concern in the United States. However, some school districts that primarily enroll Hispanic students are succeeding in retaining and graduating their students against all odds, utilizing resources already present within their community. These institutions are "positive deviants"—they are "deviants" because they are not the norm and "positive" because they embody desirable outcomes. In such high schools are enrolled students, who against all odds, work their way to timely graduation. They are positive deviants within their institution. The present study conducted in a U.S.-Mexico border city focused on the communicative behaviors of primarily Mexican high school students, the largest U.S. immigrant Hispanic subgroup with the lowest (50.6%) high school completion rate (National Center for Education Statistics, 2010). The 20 Positive Deviant students interviewed were screened with six criteria: the student is a senior, is graduating on time, student is of Hispanic origin, is economically disadvantaged, has a GPA of 3.0 or above, and the student is the first generation in their family to graduate from a U.S. high school. Key communicative practices identified to be useful in retaining and timely graduation of students include: regular, consistent, and positive messages from educators and parents to "stay in school" from early grades; constant verbal affirmation from parents, educators, and mentors praising students for academic and other achievements; and clear and repeated parental expectations to "do things right." In addition, involvement in extracurricular activities help students stay engaged in school, while teaching life skills, teamwork, and leadership; peer support groups among students help them stay out of trouble and in prioritizing schoolwork over social activities; and parental messages such as "Don't make the same mistakes I did" help students understand and grasp the consequences of dropping out of school.^

Subject Area

Speech Communication|Education, Secondary|Hispanic American Studies

Recommended Citation

Ayala, Patricia T, "Communicative practices that lead to timely high school graduation against all odds: A positive deviance inquiry in a predominantly Hispanic school" (2011). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI1494321.
http://digitalcommons.utep.edu/dissertations/AAI1494321

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