Founded in 1986 at Clemson University, the National Dropout Prevention Center serves as a clearinghouse on dropout prevention related issues, maintains a database (FOCUS) of model programs, and publishes materials on effective dropout prevention strategies. The center was created under the direction of Ester Ferguson, a South Carolina native serving as chair of the New York City National Dropout Prevention Fund. Ferguson came to Clemson to discuss the development of a national center to study dropout prevention. After talks with administrators, Clemson’s College of Education was selected to house and develop the center. Initial funding was provided by the state legislature, the governor’s office, the Appalachian Regional Commission, General Foods Corporation, and Clemson University.
Offering institutional or individual membership, the center sponsors research projects with school districts, states, and other educational entities and is involved in improving programs and services for at-risk individuals and families. It conducts third-party evaluations promoting accountability, provides leadership in demonstration projects, and develops research-based curriculum tools. Another feature of the center is providing opportunities for professional development. The annual National Dropout Prevention Network Conference, America’s At-Risk Youth National FORUM, and other topic-specific institutes are hosted by the center. It publishes the Journal of At-Risk Issues and other dropout prevention reports to disseminate up-to-date information about the critical issues of K–12 youth and families in at-risk situations.