Dropout Prevention, Intervention, and Recovery News From NDPC/N

Vol 20, no 3 June 2020

Dropout Prevention Update

From the National Dropout Prevention Center
June 2020—Vol. 20, No. 3

NDPC Now Offers Virtual Program Assessment (VPA) for Alternative Schools and Programs


With school shutdowns and re-openings, alternative schools will become more important and leaders should consider virtually reassessing those programs. The National Dropout Prevention Center (NDPC) now offers a Virtual Program Assessment (VPA) of alternative schools and programs. The NDPC Virtual Program Assessment provides expert analysis, consultation, and direction for the local school system to improve alternative programs at a lower cost than through an on-site Program Assessment and Review (PAR). The Virtual Program Assessment process consists of the following steps:

  • Pre-visit consultation and planning with system and school leaders
  • Pre-visit collection of data and contextual information
  • Online pre-visit survey of program staff, leaders, and designated stakeholders on perceptions and activities relative to Focus Areas of Improvement
  • Analysis of data and survey findings by NDPC alternative school consultant
  • Virtual interviews with selected leaders to refine conclusions from online surveys
  • Development of draft VPA Report to address findings, areas for further investigation, recommendations, and next steps
  • Review of draft VPA Report with system leadership
  • Delivery of VPA Report to address findings, areas for further investigation, recommendations, resources, and suggested next steps.

The Virtual Program Assessment joins the NDPC’s longstanding on-site Program Assessment and Review (PAR) for alternative schools and programs which is also conducted by a team of NDPC alternative education experts. Email ndpc@dropoutprevention.org for more information.

Effective Strategies

Family Engagement

Research consistently finds that family engagement has a direct, positive effect on youths’ 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 multidimensional, two-way communication as well as ongoing needs assessments and responsive family supports and interventions.

Throughout the ongoing pandemic, family engagement has quickly become an even more integral part of dropout prevention as students learn from home. Fulton City School District in New York is staying committed to family engagement during this pandemic. Their program that provides literacy material for young students in kindergarten through second grade will continue with the support of the Wisdom Thinkers Network. Rather than distributing books at school, the books are being delivered directly to the family’s doors. The books are given to encourage reading in the home and involve families in students’ development. Social workers are also helping families overcome the struggles they are facing with young learners during this pandemic. Julie Smith, a licensed counselor for Child First, a home visiting program in North Carolina, says that many children and caregivers have been left in unstable and unsafe conditions. Many home visiting programs, like Smith’s, focus on children who are at risk of trauma. These factors have created a tricky transition to virtual visits and observations. They have found that before teaching parents specific skills, these programs often are making sure families have their most basic needs met, such as housing and food. By focusing on big-ticket outcomes such as reading or maternal depression they have managed to help many families. The Colorado Department of Education ranked family engagement practices as one of the top needs for support with distance learning. Family engagement was listed alongside student emotional support, technical support, online instruction support, and standards-aligned instruction for remote learning.

In New Mexico, parents are working alongside schools and the state department on a School Reentry Task Force. This task force is working with parents and asking constituents for their input on what should happen with the state’s schools going forward. The task force is also sending out surveys to families with both open- and close-ended questions about their child’s level of engagement in school, the family’s level of satisfaction with their school’s expectations and supports, their school’s ability to meet the child’s individual needs, and their communication preferences.

Educational Technology

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 challenge of a global crisis can give way to incredible advancements. Zachary Pardos, assistant professor at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Education and the School of Information, believes that the educational technology now being researched and developed will in the future give students the power to pivot, on the fly, toward new careers. He believes that adaptive learning technologies that provide immediate feedback, auto-grade, and personalize questions will grow with students. These alongside digital tutoring systems are some major advancements that he expects to become mainstream even after the pandemic has passed. More than just researchers are stepping in to help with distance learning and the other technological challenges that face K-12 education as the Consortium for School Networking is reaching out to IT leaders for support. Mike Daugherty, Director of Technology and Innovation for Chagrin Falls Exempted Village Schools in Ohio, said: “As things have changed and our role in the educational process has shifted so much, you have to find time to get out there and see if what you’re doing is really working.” IT leaders say that there are three steps to supporting this data-driven education technology: guide K-12 districts toward the right data solutions, follow up to ensure IT deployments achieve desired goals, and boot communication efforts around data privacy.

Leveraging technology to maintain communication with students has become a vital part of a teacher’s workflow. Teachers are having to take a more mindful approach to attendance as they work to keep students engaged while still being considerate of their students’ situations. Some educators, rather than just using an attendance form, teachers have used Jamboard, Google’s digital whiteboard, and Padlet, an online bulletin board, to pose questions before the start of their online class in place of a traditional attendance system. This allows for more flexibility on the student's part and is more engaging.

Many organizations are giving away free technology packages and lessons related to STEM subjects through the rest of this school year.

Professional Development

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.

While the world around us is changing and uncertain, professional development for educators is also evolving. From classrooms to Zoom calls, students are not the only ones learning at a distance. In North Carolina, the New Teacher Support Program is aiding teachers making this change by providing support groups where veteran teachers and newcomers alike can work with instructional coaches that can guide them in using digital and online resources in their instruction. Through the coach’s guidance and teacher collaboration, the small groups are not only catering to the work side of this challenge but also some of the personal care that is required with it. In Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Partnerships For Youth, a nonprofit for prevention and intervention in health and safety of youth, is offering free webinars and training. Margie Daniels, Executive Director, says that they are now supporting tens of thousands of teachers in dealing with “the unprecedented change in the way we’re doing business.” Their work is at no cost as they are supported by an earmark from the Massachusetts legislature.

Colleges are also stepping in to provide professional development resources online. Georgia State University is establishing a project to provide access to quality science instruction at Title I elementary schools in Atlanta. This Sci-Bridge Project will focus on best practices in science teaching methods for diverse, low-income communities. Morehead State University will be providing online professional development with its Morehead Writing Project and Online Summer Institute to local schools. Dr. Deanna Mascle, site director for the writing project, says that it will provide asynchronous online instruction with a flexible approach and project-based learning. The programs are open to educators of any group and are built to benefit anyone in education.


Cyberlearning for Work at the Human-Technology Frontier

Deadline: January 11, 2021
The National Science Foundation will award grants for projects that investigate innovative technologies for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) learning and teaching within the educational and work settings. All projects must address a learning need of opportunity and must have integrated learning and technology goals. Projects should be exploratory and experimental. Eligible applicants are Kindergarten through Grade 12 public, private, parochial, and independent schools and institutions of higher education. Applications must be submitted online.

Toshiba America Grant Program for 6-12 Science and Mathematics Educators

Deadline: March 1, June 1, September 1, and December 1, annually
Awards vary. Science and mathematics teachers in public or private schools may apply for grants to support classroom science and mathematics education. Toshiba America Foundation accepts applications from teachers who are passionate about making science and mathematics more engaging for their students. The foundation seeks to support teachers by providing funds to support classroom projects. The foundation strongly encourages projects planned and led by individual teachers or teams of teachers for their classrooms. Successful projects tap into the natural curiosity of students, enable students to frame their scientific questions, and incorporate the expertise of community partners. Applications must be for project-based learning.

Game On: Social-Emotional Health Grant

Deadline: August 31, 2020
Grants ranging from $2,500 to $5,000 will be awarded by Action for Healthy Kids to support schools in implementing school-based programs and practices that explore the mind-body connection between physical and emotional health and help develop resiliency in students. Schools will implement strategies and best practices that support social and emotional well-being, bring families and schools together to build the capacity of both groups, and implement changes that improve the school community culture with health-promoting policies and practices. In addition to a monetary award, schools will receive technical assistance and individualized support from an Action for Healthy Kids State Coordinator and access to tools, resources, and professional development.

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