Chapter 4
III. Developing a Community Graduation Compact

A Community Graduation Compact puts into words your community’s shared vision of students who graduate prepared for higher education, work, and life, and provides a road map for going forward. It includes short-, mid-, and long-term goals and benchmarks, along with a process for reaching agreement and making decisions. This last component is especially important as many individuals and groups may have not worked with each other previously.

A Community Graduation Compact:

  • sets clear goals, benchmarks, and timelines
  • builds partners by
    1. carefully spelling out the different partners whose collaborative efforts will lead to increasing the graduation rate
    2. identifying the roles and responsibilities of everyone involved (within state and local governing structures). detailing who will do what and when, and who will be held accountable for what and how
  • looks to the future by providing partners with a process for monitoring and measuring outcomes and modifying plans over the years


The compact can be formally revised once a year as the community gains knowledge and experience working together, or it can be revised and refined informally.

Underlying each Community Graduation Compact are three questions:

  • What are the attitudes and beliefs that need to be dealt with before whole-hearted, communitywide support for efforts can occur?
  • What new organizational and leadership structures are needed?
  • What efforts — by education funds, national nonprofits, or local community and youth development organizations — are already at work in your community, so you can partner with them?

Setting clear goals

Setting clear time-linked goals is an important function of this compact. Examples of 10-year goals might be:

  • Average graduation rates in each school will reach 90 percent.
  • Graduation gaps among students of different ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds will be narrowed to within 5 percent in each high school.
  • ALL diploma graduates will be eligible for admission to our community college system, and 90 percent will be eligible for admission to a four-year college.

Successfully achieving these long-term goals will depend on setting and reaching other short- and mid-term goals. These often relate to early childhood development and welfare, school attendance, behavior, credit accumulation, curriculum and instruction, and early identification of students who are “falling off track,” as well as tutoring, mentoring, and family support.

Deeper Look

A great source of information for developing an effective community graduation compact is the recent work on collective impact. Here are a couple of good starting points:

The Bridgespan Group has developed Needle-Moving Collective Impact: Three Guides to Creating an Effective Community Collaborative: Communities/Community-Collaboratives/Needle-Moving-Collective- Impact-Three-Guides-to-Cr.aspx

Health Research and Educational Trust’s The Collaboration
Primer draws on more than a decade of working collectively with schools, businesses, other providers, government agencies, concerned residents, and community-based organizations: 

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