Our board of directors includes many educators with deep experience as practitioners and researchers. One is Jenny Nagaoka, who – along with John Gomperts of America’s Promise Alliance – recently published a commentary in Education Week citing ways to help more students finish high school. Jenny is the Deputy Director of the University
of Chicago Consortium on School Research.

Here are some ways that the research suggests districts can help more students complete twelfth grade, and examples of how Engaging Schools is helping to achieve this goal, especially in under-served schools.

Focus on success for ninth graders. “The habits students set as freshmen have an impact on their path to completing high school and their future beyond graduation. … Ninth graders who are ‘on-track’ … are four times more likely to graduate than students who are off -track.” Engaging Schools is working with schools from New York City to Anchorage to create structures such as ninth grade teams and Freshman Houses to provide extra student support and boost ninth grade success.

Foster supportive relationships. The transition from the middle grades to high school is often stressful. As the authors say, “a dramatic drop in grades, attendance, and academic behavior is a common warning sign of this strain. In high school, it’s easier to skip class and harder to figure out how to get help. But high school doesn’t have to be impersonal.” Engaging Schools helps schools add programs such as advisory to ensure that at least one adult in the school will know each student well over the course of every year and make sure his or her needs (and strengths) are addressed.

Assess and refine disciplinary practices. “Out-of-school suspensions mean students lose class time, which can place them at greater risk of falling farther behind. When schools understand which of their students receive suspensions, they can develop targeted interventions for individual students and help keep them on track to graduate.” Engaging Schools is a national leader in helping hundreds of schools design disciplinary systems built on a foundation of restorative practices and student support which reduces lost instructional days and increases equity. Our recent publication, Shifting Gears: Recalibrating Schoolwide Discipline and Student Support provides a step-by-step approach for creating equitable, supportive school climates. Many hundreds of school leaders are using the book to plan for systemic change.

All of the above help build student engagement, and engaged students have a more positive high school experience and greater academic success, including school completion.

For those with EdWeek login credentials, you can see Jenny’s full commentary here.

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