Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Gian S. Pagnucci, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Ben Rafoth, Ed.D.

Third Advisor

Sharon K. Deckert, Ph.D.


This study includes the narratives of nine people: three young men who left high school before earning their diplomas, three middle school teachers who witness the events of student disengagement in their writing classrooms that precede the event of leaving and three General Education Development (GED) instructors who help young men such as these recuperate their writing skills and earn a GED certificate. The narrative framework employed here focuses on privileging the stories told by this study's participants in order to explore the connection between young men's school writing experiences as well as general school experiences and the influence those experiences had on the student's decision to leave high school. The narratives of the middle school teachers and GED instructors serve as bookend perspectives to help to portray a broader picture of the academic issues that students who struggle with school regularly contend. The results of these narrative stories conclude that student risk factors begin well before middle school and the seventh and eighth grades. There also seems to exist a strong correlation between the number of risk factors a student accrues and the likelihood that he will leave high school before earning a diploma. Although each participant in this study--the young men and the teachers alike--noted writing as an important feature of either academic success or ongoing academic frustration, each participant also regarded reading as a highly important foundational skill for writing. This study indicates that cumulative risk factors and ongoing frustrations and failure can be detrimental to a student remaining in high school until he earns a diploma.