Chapter 3
IV. One Comprehensive Approach: The Civic Marshall Plan

Established frameworks can be a powerful approach to establishing a comprehensive solution to raising graduation rates. One leading example is the Civic Marshall Plan to Build a Grad Nation (CMP), which was launched in 2010 by a coalition of leading U.S. organizations, including nonprofits, corporations, foundations, policy-making institutions and educator groups. The CMP is not meant to be a prescription, but rather an iterative, evolving, dynamic, and solutions-oriented approach to end America’s dropout crisis. The CMP sets forth ten evidence-based planks to address the dropout crisis and engages leading organizations from across sectors to align their efforts with the plan in order to meet the two goals of the Grad Nation campaign:

  • A 90 percent nationwide high school graduation rate for the Class of 2020.
  • The highest college attainment rates in the world, with at least 6 in 10 students earning a college degree by 2025.

Though the following graphic was developed for the Civic Marshall Plan, the principles it outlines can be effective in other approaches as well.

 The Civic Marshall Plan section of the Community Guidebook explains CMP’s planks in detail. Here’s an introduction to them.

The Ten Planks of the Civic Marshall Plan

Plank 1: Increase Grade-Level Reading by 4th Grade – Research shows that proficient reading by the end of third grade is a key predictor of school success and high school graduation.


Plank 2: Reduce Chronic Absenteeism – Research shows that chronic absence is an early warning indicator of potential dropout and affects a student’s ability to master reading, pass courses, and gain credits.

Plank 3: Establish Early Warning Indicator and Intervention Systems (EWS) - EWS use the ABCs — attendance, behavior, and course performance in reading and math — to help educators recognize key signs of early challenges and provide necessary supports to keep students on track to graduate.


Plank 4: Redesign the Middle Grades- The middle grades play a critical role in enabling all students to graduate from high school prepared for college, career, and civic life. Often, it is a time when students begin to fall off-track. Therefore, middle school should be redesigned to foster student engagement and preparation for rigorous high school courses.

Plank 5: Provide Adult and Peer Supports - Schools should provide sustained and quality adult and peer supports to all students who want and need them, continual supports from adults serving in schools as “success coaches” for all off-track students, and intensive wraparound supports for the highest-need students.

Plank 6: Provide Transition Supports – Research has shown that the transition years, when students move from elementary to the middle grades, and from the middle grades to high school, can be particularly challenging. Without sufficient support, students can become disengaged from school and start on the path toward dropping out.

Plank 7: Ensure Every Child Attends an Effective School – “Dropout factories” are high schools, and their feeder middle and elementary schools, where 60 percent or fewer freshman are seniors three years later. Research shows that nearly half of our nation’s dropouts come from dropout factories. Steps must be taken to transform or replace them.

Plank 8: Raise the Compulsory School Attendance Age – Compulsory school-age laws are often out-of-date and do not reflect the fact that most jobs now require a high school diploma and some post-secondary training. All states should raise the compulsory attendance age to when students graduate or age 18. Currently, 17 states still allow students to dropout before 18 or before they graduate.

Plank 9: Provide All Students Pathways to College and Career – Just as one-size K-12 education does not fit all, post-secondary pathways must be numerous with many access points.

Plank 10: Support Comprehensive Dropout Recovery Programs– Students who are disconnected from school and work need to be reengaged through a comprehensive approach that integrates academic education, on-the-job training, holistic personal supports, and opportunities for community service and leadership development that culminates with a real opportunity of going on to college or into a meaningful job.



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