The Office of Dropout Prevention and Student Re-engagement at the Colorado Department of Education have specifically selected these recommendations, in conjunction, work to effectively address the combination of reasons students drop out of school. These recommendations are:
- Establishing an early warning system to determine who is at risk of dropping out of school.
- Establishing transition programs in elementary to middle, middle and high school, high school to post secondary grades to provide students additional supports preparing them for the upcoming year.
- Evaluating and changing current policies and practices at the state, district, and school level that may be hindering students from graduating.
- Building family, school, community engagement in an effort to prevent students from dropping out of school.
- Employing a rigorous and relevant curriculum to engage students and facilitate links between curriculum and real life.
- Developing school and teacher leadership (as discussed in rigorous and relevant curriculum section of the guide).
- Developing systems for data collection, tracking of process and results, evaluation and use of evaluation to make adjustments and corrections as applicable (as discussed in early warning system section of the guide).
The advantage of these recommendations is that they encapsulate many of the strategies that your school is employing today – but also gives guidance as to how your current strategies can be combined to provide comprehensive support for students. On the outset, these recommendations may seem like additional work – however, in the remainder of this document you will learn that your school may be employing many strategies and how you can then use what you are already doing as a basis for further development. Together we can address the dropout issue, and ensure that all students have the support and means to complete school successfully and graduate on time!
Don’t leave youth voice out! Students can be extremely helpful in gathering data. Student councils or groups can take part in planning, developing, and conducting a school climate survey. Sometimes it is easier for youth to talk to a peer about their experiences at school than it is to speak with an adult – especially if it is a school administrator. Students can help gather parent voice, as well. Engaging youth in the evaluation and data collection process is an authentic way to work with youth, provides them voice and fosters attachment to the school change efforts.
A Framework of Strategies for Dropout Prevention and Student Re-Engagement
Supports to Address Life Event Issues
(Forces outside of school lead students to dropout, i.e. pregnancy, illness, family stressors)
- Comprehensive social and emotional support for families (mental health services and family therapy)
- Health and wellness programming for students, families and educators
- Flexible scheduling (on-line programming, Saturday school, extended school hours)
Supports for Fade Outs
(Students do adequate in school but stop seeing a reason for staying, lack purpose or connection)
- Peer to peer mentoring
- Adult advocates and mentors
- Transitional academies (fifth to sixth grade, eighth to ninth grade)
- Service learning
- Before and/or after school programs dedicated to credit recovery and real-life career applications
Supports for Push Outs
(Students who are perceived to be detrimental to others in the school)
- Policy reviews that incorporate best practices (tools for reviews have been developed by the Colorado Graduates Initiative)
- School culture surveys/Action plans
- Parenting classes based on parental involvement and family leadership models
- Character education and life skills trainings
Supports for Academic Failure
(Often persisting in school for many years and then dropout because the work is too difficult/too far behind and there is a lack of resources and options)
- Early warning systems to identify students in need of dropout prevention supports (software, training, implementation, support)
- Parent involvement to support learning at home
- Summer school programs
- Teacher professional development (How do I help struggling students? Differentiated instructional methods, managing student behavior, etc.)
- Strategic supports for Immigrant, Refugee and EL students
Note: Most of the strategies identified address more than one of the factors linked to dropout.