In 2016, work was completed on a Rural Dropout Prevention Project, funded by the U.S. Department of Education (US ED) through its High School Graduation Initiative (HSGI). The purpose of the Rural Dropout Prevention Project (Contract No. ED-ESE-13-C-0069) was to provide technical assistance to state education agencies and middle and high schools in designing and implementing programs and securing resources to implement effective school dropout prevention and reentry programs in rural communities. The US ED awarded the rural dropout prevention project to Manhattan Strategy Group, which executed the project with assistance from the American Institutes for Research, the National Dropout Prevention Network, and Clemson Broadcast Productions. Project deliverables included producing videos focusing on dropout prevention from each state’s perspective. The videos focus on dropout prevention strategies used or challenges faced, specific to each state or selected state districts. The project provided technical assistance to fourteen states: Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
The videos, products, and tools shared below were created under the project to support or highlight the state/district/local strategies being implemented to serve rural students in the states served by the contract.
Rural dropout prevention in the United States responds to challenges such as geographical isolation, limited access to business resources, low population density, and often fragile economies. Drawing on the intrinsic strengths that rural life offers the learning process, including less bureaucracy and multigenerational ties to schools, states and local districts are employing a broad swath of strategies and programs to engage and re-engage students in the learning process. Using interview data collected across 14 rural states, this video highlights six of those strategies and the successful work being done.
This video highlights Alaska’s success in overcoming the challenges of rural schools that often lack the capacity to provide learning and engagement opportunities because of their small size and isolated geographical locations. To ensure that students graduate from high school prepared for careers and postsecondary success, the state offers exciting distance learning opportunities in the form of short term residency programs and online instruction. These approaches and course offerings help rural students make up credits and access courses otherwise unavailable to them. From across this vast state, you will meet students, faculty, and administrators and learn how these personalized approaches help student to access career and technical education programs and personalized online coursework they need to succeed.
Drawing on interviews with state and local education administrators, teachers, and students, this video highlights Arkansas’ innovative dropout prevention initiatives and services, such as the Department of Education’s web-based Data Center, which provides critical information on student progress, and Virtual Arkansas, which has online offerings that connect rural students with educational experiences that would otherwise not be accessible to them. The video also explores the alternative learning environments for students challenged by the traditional classroom experience and the importance of career and technical education opportunities in helping to keep students engaged school. Lastly, the video addresses the intrinsic rewards of rural life and the support and closeness these communities afford students and their schools.
The importance of adult and student relationships to rural dropout prevention and the critical role intentionality brings to this engagement is brought home through Iowa’s video and the work schools have accomplished through Iowa Safe and Supportive Schools funding. The video demonstrates how a detailed set of strategies at the state and local level is successfully being used to re-engage, recover, and re-enroll students who have dropped out of school or are on the verge of dropping out. Focusing on the work being done in this area, the video covers how student and adult connections are being formed, ways this connection and related strategies are supporting student voice and leadership opportunities, and why these processes are helping to ensure that students successfully graduate in this rural state.
This video tells the story of the infrastructure for dropout prevention put in place by the Maine State Legislature, drawing special attention to the unique state role and function of the Truancy, Dropout, and Alternative Education Committee and the requirement for local districts to convene local dropout prevention committees responsible for developing and implementing dropout prevention plans in their districts. Student experiences and strategies utilized in successful alternative school and workforce programs that increase graduation rates through meaningfully engaging students within a caring, positive, and equitable school climate are highlighted.
Dropout prevention in the state of Mississippi confronts numerous historic, economic, and geographic challenges. While inroads are being made in dropout prevention through state initiatives, creative partnerships among multiple school systems, state agencies, and concerned professionals are being used to meet the needs of small rural schools and districts that often lack the financial resources, population size, and easy access to services. This video highlights the collaborative work of nonprofits, school districts, and the business community to enhance high school graduation rates across the state.
Under the umbrella of the Graduation Matters Montana Initiative (GMM), Montana is implementing a state supported, locally implemented, set of strategies to increase the number of students graduating from high school who are college and career ready. This video highlights the work and success of GMM at the state level, through implementation of an early warning system, state student advisory, and foundation and business partnerships and at the local level, through engagement of families, students, communities, and businesses in school life. Through interviews, award ceremonies, and other events, you will hear the voices of the state superintendent, local administrators, teachers, and students discuss how the Initiative and locally-honed best practices are helping students stay in school, graduate, and move on to postsecondary opportunities.
To prepare students to learn and to become productive citizens are at the core of the state of Nebraska’s educational mission. To achieve this it strives for equity of access and opportunity, quality programming, and respect for all students. This video highlights the practices and programs High School Grants Initiative recipients and rural local districts, schools, and their communities are putting into practice to stem dropout rates and enhance successful graduation for all its students. Key among those practices are equity training and implementation, engaged and relevant programming, and strong community involvement.
As a rural New England state, New Hampshire has implemented many successful strategies to reduce its high school dropout rate, a key component of which is the vast series of alternative options that are offered to students and raising the age to dropout to 18. Through this video the driving forces for lowering the dropout rate in New Hampshire over the past seven years are identified and explored, including the significant infusion of state funding to allow high schools to provide a wide variety of alternative programs for students who previously would have dropped out.
North Carolina places a strong emphasis on ensuring all its students graduate prepared for college and career by providing personalized educational opportunities, both within and outside of the its alternative education programs, to ensure all students have the supports they need to graduate. This video highlights rural districts that use the personalized learning approach to respond to the needs of the student. It shows the diversity of learning opportunities available, how these offerings are identified and incorporated into education plans, and the ways in which they are addressing the individual needs of the academically at risk students in rural North Carolina.
Responding to the high dropout rate among Native Americans in the state and the need for greater awareness and appreciation of the many contributions Native Americans have made in the state, the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction is developing the Native American Essential Understandings resource document. This video highlights the work that is currently being undertaken, how it originated, its importance, and the anticipated effect it will have on Native and non-Native students alike. Filmed largely in Bismarck, North Dakota, at the 2nd annual North Dakota Indian Education Summit, the viewer sees and hears from state education officials, tribal leaders, and students as they discuss and share best practices in Indian education.
Oklahoma uses Alternative Education Programs to reduce dropout and enhance graduation rates across the state. While every program must incorporate 17 research-based components that include individualized instruction, measurable program goals, and graduation plans for all students, the approach of the individual programs reflect local differences. This video tells the stories of three students and how each of their alternative education programs enabled them to become successful graduates through cooperation and collaboration among educational entities, flexible learning approaches, and cultivation of positive relationships between students, school administration, and staff.
Vermont developed the Flexible Pathways Initiative, passed by its legislature and signed into law in 2013, to implement personalized learning across the state. Through the best practices outlined in the initiative the state is working to ensure successful high school graduation and career and postsecondary readiness for all Vermont students. Drawing on interviews with state and local education agency administrators, teachers, and students, the video highlights transformative work that is being done to change education through this initiative. Some of the work focused on is professional development on proficiency based learning, student centered personalized learning and the use of personalized learning plans, and engagement and re-engagement of students who might not otherwise be involved in the learning process.
West Virginia’ Department of Education’s efforts are best synthesized in the State Superintendents plan of One Voice, One Focus: All Students Achieving, which provides a consistent message to all schools that all students should and will have the opportunity to learn. Through the state’s efforts an early warning system has been put into place. In addition, through state legislated funding, the State Innovation Zones are providing funds and flexibility to pilot innovative strategies to enhance student success and reduce dropout rates across this rural state. This video highlights the impact of these and other programs and services and why and how the state is focusing on personalized learning as its top priority and tool to reduce dropout rates.
High quality career and technical education programming in middle school and high school is an important dropout prevention strategy used across the state of Wyoming. Through these programs, rural students who might otherwise drop out are engaging in the education process through hands-on learning, positive teacher and student relationships, and preparation for meaningful employment or postsecondary education upon completion of high school. This video highlights multiple programs as diverse as welding, green construction, and culinary arts and how they are changing lives and keeping students in school.