D.C. program aims to keep at-risk kids in school

Currently, 1.2 million U.S. students drop out each year -- the equivalent of 7,000 students a day, or one child every 26 seconds. This increasing dropout rate represents a potential crisis for America’s economic future, as students who do not earn a high school diploma earn up to 80 percent less than their diploma-earning peers. In addition, the National Center for Education Statistics figures show that nearly one in three ninth graders at public high schools are not earning their diplomas in four years.

To combat the dropout problem in Washington, D.C., the non-profit D.C, Diplomas Now, an innovative school turnaround model, is partnering with education, services and technology company Pearson. In support of K-8 school Browne Education Campus, Diplomas Now will use Prevent from Pearson to put the data for identifying at-risk students at teachers’ and administrators’ fingertips.Prevent is a software program that aggregates the most relevant and predictive student data to pinpoint which students are mostly likely to drop out of school. By pulling together readily-available data contained in current student information systems – including, but not limited to, a student’s grade point average, discipline history, attendance and grade level – Prevent provides an early warning system for educators, helping them determine where to spend their time most effectively to prevent students from leaving school without a diploma.

“As we all collaborate – Diplomas Now, the educational community at Browne, and Pearson – to support this Washington, D.C., school, it is critical that we have easy access to data to keep students on track,” said Kathy Nelson, education field administrator at Johns Hopkins University’s Talent Development Program, a developer of the Diplomas Now model for school improvement. “Prevent puts that information in front of the school’s teachers, providing them with the data needed to drive interventions for at-risk students, without having to invest countless hours digging through data from disparate systems.”

Diplomas Now unites three experienced nonprofit organizations – City Year, Communities In Schools and Talent Development – at Johns Hopkins University to work with the nation’s most challenged middle, junior and high schools to deliver the right interventions to the right students at the right time. The partnership combines evidence-based, comprehensive school improvement with an early warning system, national service and integrated student services that are dedicated to helping students at risk of dropping out to get back on track and stay on track through high school graduation, and to be ready for college and career. Diplomas Now’s findings indicate that 75 percent of America’s high school dropouts can be identified between sixth and ninth grades by monitoring “off-track indicators,” including poor attendance, poor behavior and course failure in English or math. In its first year, Diplomas Now exceeded its goal of achieving a 25 percent reduction in off-track indicators among students in schools where the program was implemented.

“By putting the predictors of student success – attendance, behavior and grades – in the hands of teachers and administrators at Browne Education Campus, Diplomas Now is giving them a powerful tool for restructuring their school and ensuring that all students are on track for success in high school, college and careers,” said Gary Hensley, Prevent founder and director for Student Growth at Pearson. “Prevent compiles the information for them, presents it to them in a way that allows them to easily pinpoint the students most at risk of dropping out, and allows them to determine appropriate interventions as soon as possible.”