The conference is designed to enhance the leadership skills of those seeking to strengthen interventions among school, community, and families, especially those in at-risk situations. The conference program will focus on current and innovative best practices, NDPC’s 15 Effective Strategies for Dropout Prevention, and trending topics and issues for the future.
Registration will open soon for the National Dropout Prevention Center’s very first National Lessons Learned Conference for K-12 Students, February 17-19, 2020, at the Westin Charlotte in North Carolina. The conference will provide opportunities for school and district teams to learn and work together on their local plan while being supported by expert practitioners, model programs, and national thought leaders.
This conference will provide participants with inspiration, research and practical strategies to implement change with a strand focused on Supporting At-Risk Students. This strand will be presented by the National Dropout Prevention Center and will share proven practices for engaging and supporting at-risk students including NDPC’s Trauma-Skilled Schools Model.
Mentoring is a one-to-one caring, supportive relationship between a mentor and a mentee that is based on trust. Mentoring offers a significant support structure for high-risk students. Tutoring, also a one-to-one activity, focuses on academics and is an effective practice when addressing specific needs such as reading, writing, or math competencies.
As the school year begins across the country, mentoring programs assume an important role in students’ lives and education. These programs take many forms but all are designed to support students. In Columbus, Indiana, a school-based tutoring and mentoring program for at-risk children called Foster Grandparent Program is taking off. The program allows volunteers over the age of 55 to help tutor and mentor students regardless of previous tutoring experience. These volunteers spend 15 to 30 hours a week helping at local schools connecting with students. Big Brothers and Big Sisters in Nashville, Tennessee, is taking a digital approach to mentoring with their online mentoring program. The E-Mentor Program matches high school juniors to an adult to help teach the high school students life skills. The ability to mentor students online allows for increased flexibility for working adults. The pairs spend an hour a week working with an online curriculum and spend time in person three times a year.
During a break from school, a group of students in Freeport, Illinois, spent five weeks of their vacation at the Summer Mentorship Program at Freeport Middle School. The program has 12 mentors with four of them being successful recent graduates to serve as role models to the students participating. The program provided students with a safe space for the summer and also provided opportunities for social and emotional learning, foundational, and soft skills. Last summer the program reached nearly 100 at-risk students.
Students who do well in the ninth grade tend to graduate, so in Pawcatuck, Connecticut, the Chariho School District is introducing a new mentorship program. The CHarged to Inspire Learners to Become Leaders or CHILL program pairs at-risk ninth graders with responsible adults to support and prepare students for their future in school. The program was founded around evidence-based research that has shown that supportive connections are essential to youth development. And in Winchester, Kentucky, above a coffee shop, Zac Cowan mentors students in a space where they can just be themselves. Video games, ping-pong, and air-hockey fill the Rowland Arts Center where Zac has gone from a volunteer to assistant programming director working day to day with kids. The mentoring space they have built provides a safe social space for students to use as they throw events like parties after football games in a controlled environment. They also provide classes for students outside of schools, such as cooking classes and outdoor programs.
Early Childhood Education
Birth-to-five interventions demonstrate that providing a child with additional enrichment can enhance brain development. Also, the most effective way to reduce the number of children who will ultimately drop out is to provide the best possible classroom instruction from the beginning of their school experience through the primary grades.
Baylor University’s Dr. Sandi Cooper founded Mathematics for Early Learners Academy, a program that helps struggling young students catch up on pre-K mathematics. A majority of the 80 students in the program come from economically disadvantaged households. The program recruits experienced teachers to lead the lessons along with two university students going into their senior year in each classroom. The four-week course takes place at the Mayborn Museum, allowing students to go on walks through exhibits and go beyond the classroom setting when learning their lessons.
Colorado has designed a rating system to evaluate its licensed preschool and childcare providers throughout the state called Colorado Shines. The system has been implemented over the last four years with hopes of spurring low-rated providers to make improvements and inform parents on the quality of childcare programs. While the state has not set any long-term goals, they have already seen an overall improvement and upward trend in the quality of education provided through its preschool programs.
Portland District Library introduced sensory bins for its pre-K programs. Librarian Jana Slisher wanted to fix the program which was disengaging the young learners. So, she created sensory bins where the students can squish, pour, and get a bit messy with different things. The bins allow her to tie tangible objects and senses into the more traditional storytime.
Early Literacy Development
Early literacy interventions to help low-achieving students improve their reading and writing skills establish the necessary foundation for effective learning in all subjects.
A learning foundation built through early literacy goes beyond just literacy itself research continues to prove. In a recent study, it was found that early literacy skills can predict stronger math skills at the age of 13. In the study, the focus was on the power of home simulation and its impact on reading and math scores from ages three to 13. Simone Lehrl from the University of Bamberg, who led the study, said: “Encouraging caregivers to engage with their children in direct literacy activities, shared book reading and advanced verbal interactions during reading, and to include language and mathematical content during these activities, should promote children’s reading and mathematical abilities in secondary school.”
In Chicago, Illinois, early learning groups are partnering with family care centers to provide families waiting for appointments with appropriate reading to build early literacy in young children. The Eglin Partnership for Early Learning has partnered with Greater Elgin Family Care Center to bring the While You Wait early learning program to the Center’s waiting rooms. This initiative goes beyond the typical waiting room books as it includes bilingual materials and flipbooks with activities that encourage parents to interact with their children. Amber Peters, the Executive Director of Elgin Partnership for Early Learning, said: "Health care partners are a key piece of the equation of having all children ready for kindergarten as they are the first person to have consistent contact with a family and are trusted messengers." At Unity Point Health Pediatrics in Belleville, Illinois, all seven pediatricians on-site went through the Reach Out and Read training program. All of the pediatricians now counsel parents on the importance of reading to their children and give families with children six months to five years of age a book to help get started. Dr. Ashley Fischer, who brought the program to the Center, said, “Ninety percent of brain development happens before a child enters kindergarten.” Since a majority of the families coming into the Center are low income, the Center received funding for the program and provides the books at cost.
The Brown Foundation, Inc.
Deadline: Year-round Acceptance
Award amounts vary. The Brown Foundation, Inc. supports charitable purposes that encourage and assist programs and projects in education, arts, and community service. In the area of education, funding is focused on the primary and secondary school levels. Initiatives that support nontraditional and innovative approaches designed to improve public education are ideal. Previous grants were used to fund educational software for education foundations, antibullying projects for schools, middle school dropout prevention programs, career readiness, and after-school programs, adult learning and degree completion projects, community college facility improvements, literacy programs, and robotics camps for youth.
The Dudley T. Dougherty Foundation
Deadline: December 3
Award amounts vary. The Dudley T. Dougherty Foundation supports programs in arts, community, education, environment, health care, and peace. Recent awards were made to programs supporting high school music, leadership, and youth development.
Initial Teaching Alphabet Foundation
Deadline: April 1
Award amounts vary. The Initial Teaching Alphabet (i.t.a.) is a phonetic alphabet based on the phonemic sound system of the English language. It was designed to present the beginning reader and writer with a logical and reliable reading and writing system. The foundation promotes literacy through the use of the i.t.a. to help students perform better in school, have a healthy self-image, and become lifelong learners. Nonprofit organizations and schools are eligible to apply. Grants awarded reflect a variety of approaches for promoting and supporting the use of the i.t.a. for literacy, elementary and secondary school education, and remediation of reading and writing disabilities in older students. Interested applicants must first submit a Letter of Intent by email. Selected applicants will then be invited to submit a full proposal.
The National Dropout Prevention Center offers a number of free or low-cost resources on our website www.dropoutprevention.org
Over 500 educators and practitioners have enrolled in the National Dropout Prevention Specialist certification program. The program is founded on NDPC’s research-based effective strategies, known youth risk factors, professional learning participation, and field implementation of acquired knowledge. The certification verifies and strengthens dropout prevention experience and expertise and facilitates networking with others equally dedicated to dropout prevention. Visit www.dropoutprevention.org/services-certifications/national-dropout-prevention-specialist-certification-program to register.
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