Date Approved


Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department or School

Teacher Education

Committee Member

Dr. Linda Lewis-White: Chair

Committee Member

Dr. Paul Ramsey

Committee Member

Dr. Nancy Copeland

Committee Member

Dr. Virginia Harder

Committee Member

Dr. William Abernethy


The purpose of this study was to investigate factors and feelings that contribute to students leaving school and later returning to adult education programs to attain a General Educational Development (GED) credential. This process was found to be ameliorated by the positive factors of literacy, engagement, and resilience. These factors were selected because of their importance to the success of the schooling process and their interrelatedness. When these factors were self-reported at low levels combined with negative social circumstances, it was much more difficult for students to avoid school attrition or to reengage in dropout recovery. An explanatory sequential mixed methods research design was employed with an emancipatory lens facilitated by a supportive listener, as researcher, to examine the voices of a disadvantaged population of high school dropouts who shared their educational journeys and reconnection to school. These personal reports were given through the use of the Survey of Adolescent Reading Attitudes (SARA), The Resilience Scale for Adolescents (READ), and ethnographic interviews. Students felt that the inherent value of a high school credential was equally as important as the desire to garner employment. Literacy, they believed, was a protective factor as a skill that was an early-developed asset; however, that ability alone could not help them prevail in view of overwhelming personal roadblocks and ever increasing complex content material. Literacy skills did help reassure students of the possibility of success when finding a good dropout recovery program to obtain a GED. Students’ self-determination, through engagement and resilience, revealed an intrinsic feeling of wanting to reach the educational goal for “myself.” A significant link between reading attitudes and resilience was demonstrated in a correlation study with the two established assessment scales.

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