Research has found that key warning signals of disengaging include school attendance, behaviour, course performance (completing assignments and
passing courses) and, in the United States, on-grade promotion (Burgette et al, 2011; Balfanz et al, 2009; Mac Iver and Mac Iver, 2009; Neild et al, 2007;
Jerald, 2006; Lehr et al, 2004). In the these studies, school-based indicators have been found to be better predictors of dropping out of secondary
education than demographic characteristics such as gender, ethnicity and poverty (Kennelly and Monrad, 2007 cited Burgette et al, 2011). Hull (2005)
argues that since research indicates that absenteeism/truancy and low levels of academic achievement are the most significant common characteristics of early school leavers.
Heppen and Therriault’s review of factors which indicate whether a student is at risk of dropping out of high school found that missing more than 10 per
cent of instructional time is a cause for concern (see Allensworth and Easton, 2007). Specifically, the review found that the first year of high
school (ninth grade, age 14-15) is a ‘make or break year’. The review concludes that: The biggest risk factor for failing ninth grade is the number of absences during the first 30 days of high school (see Neild and Balfanz, 2006)12. Even moderate levels of absences, one to two weeks, in the first semester of ninth grade, are associated with lower rates of high school graduation (see Allensworth and Easton, 2007). By the end of the first semester of high school, course grades and failure rates are slightly better predictors of whether students will graduate (see Allensworth and Easton, 2007).