Evaluating Current Programs
To begin comprehensively addressing its dropout crisis, your community will first need to analyze how effective its current response is. Identifying and evaluating existing initiatives will allow you to take stock of what’s already happening, who is doing it and how. Equipped with this information, your community can begin to understand what is working, what isn’t, and the best ways to effectively impact the dropout crisis.
Fundamentally, the community needs to know if current student supports are sufficient to enable all its students to graduate prepared for college, career, and civic life. You will want to examine elementary, middle, and high schools, existing wraparound student services, and out-of-school supports (e.g., after-school, summer learning, parental involvement). Consider these questions:
- Are current supports directed at the right students at the right time?
- Are current supports comprehensive and effective?
- What other responses are needed?
- Which efforts aren’t working and need to be changed, modified, or abandoned?
Are current programs directed at the right students at the right time?
If students successfully navigate four key transition points, chances are they will graduate prepared for adult success. These points are:
- beginning school — pre-K to elementary school
- moving into the middle grades
- progressing to high school
- leaving high school for college or postsecondary training
At each transition, many students will need additional academic and social supports. Students in middle and high school, for example, will want some real-world opportunities to link to classroom learning.
You also will want to determine whether your community’s academic, social, and other resources are:
- identifying when and where students are falling off the path to high school graduation;
- detecting and responding to absenteeism and academic struggles beginning in elementary school;
- implementing early warning indicator and intervention systems for students’ progress, collecting, analyzing and acting on information that indicates when a student is at risk of getting off track; and
- enabling a successful transition from high school to college or post-secondary training.
Are current programs comprehensive and effective?
Do current efforts reinforce and support one another, or do they duplicate one another or even work against each other? Which efforts have demonstrated a substantial impact on reducing the dropout rate, increasing the graduation rate, or improving college readiness and preparing students for adult success? These are the strategies you will want to build on and weave into the additional actions you take.
Identifying Potential Assets
You will also want to identify the areas of potential in your community to ensure that you begin to leverage your community’s untapped strengths.
Who are the important leaders in your community? Are there existing resources that you have yet to use?
Who are the important leaders in your community?
Identify and engage community members who have a prominent role in your community and are not yet part of your community’s response. These individuals can be leaders of faith-based institutions or civic associations. They can be restaurant owners, police chiefs, national park rangers, nursing directors or little league coaches. Gather these people who already care deeply about the success of their community and brainstorm creative ways to involve them in your graduation goals.
Are there existing resources that you have yet to use?
Resources can include money, outdoor facilities, in-kind donations and the time and commitment of caring adults. Identify the resources that are already in your community.
For more information regarding early warning indicators and tracking systems see:
The Data Quality Campaign: Early Warning Systems Resource Page. http://dataqualitycampaign.org/find-resources/supporting-early-warning-systems/
The National High School Center Middle Grades and High School Tools. http://www.betterhighschools.org/ews.asp
On Track For Success: The Use of Early Warning Indicator and Intervention Systems to Build A Grad Nation
Learning What It Takes: An Initial Look at How Schools Are Using Early Warning Indicator Data and Collaborative Response Teams to Keep all Students on Track to Success by Liza Herzog, Marica Davis and Nettie Legters, Everyone Graduates Center, Johns Hopkins University School of Education, 2012. http://new.every1graduates.org/learning-what-it-takes/