Dropout Prevention Update
From the National Dropout Prevention Center
February 2021—Vol. 21, No. 2
Research consistently finds that family engagement has a direct, positive effect on youth achievement and is one of the most accurate predictors of a student’s success in school. Critical elements of this type of collaboration rely on effective, ongoing, and multi-dimensional, two-way communication as well as ongoing needs assessments and responsive family supports and interventions.
Almost a year ago, many of the norms in American education were put to the test as schools went virtual during the lockdown. The pressure caused many changes including the level of family involvement in their children’s educations as parents were home with students. In some cases, communication problems between parents and teachers arose. Schools and districts soon developed solutions to enhance communications. In Pittsburgh, for example, a telephone hotline was set up for families to call during the first weeks of the pandemic to establish communication. Solutions to the need for communications extends beyond the United States. Research conducted in 2020 by the Center for Universal Education (CUE) at the Brookings Institution found that teachers in Botswana and India have begun texting regularly with parents — and building meaningful connections along the way. The initiative developed thousands of videos and digital worksheets and then deployed 48,000 teachers to connect to parents through WhatsApp.
Parent-teacher conferences have long been the backbone of communication between schools and families that can lead to stronger family engagement in a student’s education. With social distancing Winona Area Public Schools in Minnesota are reworking open houses and focusing on back-to-school conferences at the elementary level, as well as flexible conference windows and formats at other times of the year to remove barriers and personalize the experience based on the needs of each student or family. The teachers are saying that they create better connections with the families in one-on-one environments since there are things parents would not ask in a group setting like open houses provided.
Deanne Hicks, a third-grade teacher at Natchez Elementary in Wadsworth, Ohio, says that her top priority when communicating with parents has become the nutritional and social-emotional needs of students and their families. She has used communications throughout the pandemic to build authentic, meaningful relationships based on mutual respect and connectedness with both her students and their parents or guardians. After she had developed interactions with students’ parents, the benefits have continued as face-to-face instruction has resumed.
Instructional technology can effectively support teaching and learning while engaging students in meaningful, current, and authentic efforts; addressing multiple intelligences; and adapting to students’ learning styles. Educational technology can effectively be used in individualized instruction and can not only help prepare students for the workforce but can empower students who struggle with self-esteem. Effective use of technologies depends upon the timely response to and application of the rapidly expanding choices and matches to identified student needs.
The role of technology in education has transformed over the last year from a core component to the essential backbone and its role in dropout prevention has grown as well. In Omaha, a group called Do School is providing technology to support families with limited or no internet access at home and tutor support to parents who do not have the option of working from home. The free center gives parents a place to safely keep their children connected to technology while they work. While physical technology and the ability to access is critical to education, much is being done to expand on the software side as Google classrooms are rolling out more systems to keep students and teachers engaged and connected online. Features include letting teachers track a student's engagement with content and who posted a comment or submitted an assignment. Another new feature lets students use their phone cameras to scan their homework and upload photos to turn in their teachers. A new offline mode will help students do their work even when their internet connection is not reliable.
In New York City, Brooklyn High School’s The Code project received $30,000 from National Grid software coding and college career initiatives. The Code is a science, technology, engineering, arts, and math program that serves African American, underserved, and underprivileged students. STEM subjects are not the only ones focusing on. Art educators are calling attention to the importance of technology integration in art. A national study by Adobe Education found that teachers and students alike value creativity in the modern classroom and hope to see an increased use of technology in their courses. When comparing the perceptions of students and educators, the Adobe Education study found that both groups consider technology a defining characteristic of their generation and that both believe creativity will play a defining role in their future success. Online resources for the arts are developing such as the Palmer Museum of Arts virtual exhibits or the Metropolitan Museum art time machine for kids.
Education Week published a year-end review of the major eight takeaways from 2020 in education technology. The studies show that teachers are interacting with their students now more than ever as they are aided by technology but struggling to reach many distant learners.
Adults who work with youth at risk of dropping out need to be provided ongoing professional learning opportunities, support, and feedback. The professional learning should align with the agreed-upon vision and focus for the school/agency, the agreed-upon instructional framework of high-leverage research-based practices and strategies, and the identified needs of the population served. The professional learning opportunities provided should be frequently monitored to determine the fidelity of implementation and the need for additional support and feedback.
In Vermont, teachers can benefit from free training on teaching personal finance. The online course is being provided by the Center for Financial Literacy at Champlain College, in partnership with the Vermont Agency of Education. The organizers hope that the course helps Vermont educators improve student outcomes in this key academic and life skill. Elmhurst University in Illinois created a list of teacher leadership resources that outline some of the best practices. The resources on the listed sites help teachers advocate for teacher leadership and incorporate teacher leader voices from national policy to the most innovative and equitable classroom practices.
In Muncie, Indiana, the Muncie Community School District has launched a teacher leadership pipeline called Career Ladders. The Career Ladders program places a master teacher in each building who observes and assists all other teachers. Through the program, master teacher leaders have been able to step in to help plan virtual, hybrid, and in-person lessons; identify learning gaps; bolster student engagement; and provide individual coaching and support.
July 31, 2021
Grants ranging from $5,000 to $10,000 are awarded in the areas of education, arts and culture, humanities, health, and human services, and the environment. The primary focus is Texas, but organizations in other states are encouraged to apply for funding as well. Previous grants were used to fund high school programming support, summer camp renovations, and creative arts education programs.
Deadline: June 15, 2021
Awards vary. The D’Addario Music Foundation awards grants and product donations to sustainable music instruction programs to improve access to music education. Supported programs include those that bring music back into communities and schools, and get kids playing as early and as frequently as possible.
Deadline: April 30, 2021
The Possibility Grant Sweepstakes supports educational activities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) with STEM-related equipment, supplies, technology, and science lab makeovers in Kindergarten through Grade 12 schools. Eligible applicants are Kindergarten through Grade 12 teachers at Title I designated public schools or tax-exempt schools.
Deadline: August 13, 2021
Awards vary. The Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers program promotes Prekindergarten through Grade 12 students' interests and capacities to participate in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and information and communications technology (ICT) workforce of the future. To do this, ITEST supports the development, implementation, and selective spread of innovative strategies for engaging students in experiences that increase students' awareness of STEM occupations; motivate students to pursue the appropriate education pathways for STEM occupations; and develop disciplinary-based knowledge and practices, or promote critical thinking, reasoning, or communication skills needed for entering STEM workforce sectors.
Deadline: May 31, Annually
Grants of up to $20,000 are awarded in the areas of education, the arts, social welfare, and medical research. Funding is intended for special projects that could not otherwise be realized. Previous grants were used to fund international baccalaureate programs at charter schools, outreach programs for abused and neglected children and youth, projects for children on the autism spectrum, and housing programs for at-risk teenagers.
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