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

Vol 20, no 4 July 2020

Dropout Prevention Update

From the National Dropout Prevention Center
July 2020—Vol. 20, No. 4

The National Dropout Prevention Center (NDPC) conducts and analyzes research; sponsors workshops and national conferences; and collaborates with researchers, policymakers, and practitioners to further the mission of reducing Americas dropout rate by meeting the needs of youth in at-risk situations, including students with disabilities.

NDPC has identified 15 Effective Strategies for Dropout Prevention that have the most positive impact on reducing school dropout. These strategies appear to be independent, but actually work well together and frequently overlap. Although they can be implemented as stand-alone strategies, positive outcomes will result when school districts or other agencies develop program improvement plans that encompass most or all these strategies.

Each month, NDPC delivers examples of effective use of a selected number of effective strategies through this e-Newsletter. This month’s e-Newsletter features examples of School-Community Collaboration, Active Learning, and Trauma-Skilled strategies, including NDPC’s Trauma-Skilled Schools Model.

Effective Strategies

School-Community Collaboration

This strategy focuses on the power of an engaged and responsive community where everyone in the community is accountable for the quality of education, resulting in a caring and collaborative environment where youth can thrive and achieve. Critical elements of this type of collaboration rely on effective, ongoing, and multidimensional communication so that dropout prevention is a communitywide and ongoing effort.

In Pontiac, Michigan, the Regional Chamber is launching the Pontiac United Education Coalition to aid the community through the pandemic by surveying households on what resources are needed to help children. A local business sponsored the survey and donated pizzas to respondents. Additionally, the local library worked with the community coalition to bring online library cards to every child in the area regardless of what school they attend. The long-term goal of the coalition is to create lasting connections among community businesses and schools. In Madison, Wisconsin, the Collaboration for Good and Cook It Forward organizations have come together to create a program between local restaurants and nonprofits to tackle food insecurity in the county. By working with the school district, the program has been able to serve 40 families with students who could not get food as many distribution kitchens are closed due to the pandemic. In Manistee County, Michigan, Baldwin Community Schools and Manistee Area Public Schools have started working with the Farm to Family Program to provide families fresh produce once a week alongside the distribution of school food. The service is part of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program funded by the USDA providing family-sized boxes of food to be distributed by nonprofit organizations.

At the University of Texas at San Antonio future educators are working with the community to close the achievement gap in underserved communities. University students are serving as tutors in low-income neighborhood community centers providing math lessons to parents. They believe by teaching the parents how to better understand the content, the parents will be able to help their children with their math. The students teach parents ways to incorporate math into their everyday lives, providing parents with strategies to better connect with their children. During this summer due to the pandemic, the students have continued their work through online meetings where they are engaging both parents and children.


Research indicates that students in our schools are dealing with unprecedented levels of stress and increasing exposure to traumas. This stress of life and prevalence of traumas can negatively impact a student’s cognitive functions and behaviors in school. Educators are calling for additional support in the form of guidance counselors, school psychologists, and behavioral specialists to deal with these growing challenges. Trauma, however, is particularly challenging for teachers/educators to address because students often do not express the distress they are feeling in an easily recognizable way, and they may mask their pain with behavior that is aggressive or off-putting. The Trauma-Skilled Schools Model (TSS Model) seeks not to identify trauma-impacted students, but to build the capacity to deepen school/district staffs’ understanding of trauma, to create strategies, policies, and procedures that support students, and to establish a culture that eliminates practices that may be detrimental to trauma-impacted students.

In the current time of unprecedented changes due to the pandemic, the need for educators to become not only trauma-informed but also Trauma-Skilled is critical. ChildhoodTrust has released a report detailing the consequences of the Coronavirus crisis for children living in poverty. Students in poverty are facing more traumas than ever before. The report outlines six main concerns: emotional and physical abuse, mental health concerns, educational learning loss, hunger and food insecurity, homelessness and temporary housing risk, and playtime and well-being. Dr. Maria Loades, a clinical psychologist from the University of Bath, says lockdown measures are "likely to increase the risk of depression and probable anxiety, as well as possible post-traumatic stress". Another study found that the pandemic has caused teens to experience collective trauma, with results showing an increase across the board in stressors pertaining to health, family financial situation, education, and basic needs.

The National Dropout Prevention Center’s Trauma-Skilled Schools Model also has teachers look internally at the traumas and adverse childhood experiences they face. Some groups are trying to give teachers opportunities to heal themselves before they take on this new dynamic in the upcoming school year. Some districts are choosing to open online sessions for teachers to share how they feel with one another rather than add on more professional development. While there are no quick fixes to healing from the stressors related to the pandemic, opening conversations about teacher’s mental health alongside student’s mental health is critical.

Dr. Elizabeth Dutro, a Fellow at the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder, believes that for recovery teachers will need to explore trauma with the students in the classroom. She says that “[t]eachers’ experiences of the crisis are a central resource for connecting with students, demonstrating the value of students’ lives and knowledge, and supporting them in learning in the midst of this challenging time.” She also writes that teachers sharing from their own experiences will help rebuild the emotional community in classrooms as students return.

Active Learning

Active learning and student engagement strategies engage and involve students in meaningful ways as partners in their learning. These strategies include student voice and choice; effective feedback, peer assessment, and goal setting; cooperative learning; thinking critically, creatively, and reflectively; and micro-teaching, discussion, and two-way communication. To be most effective, teachers must provide students with tools and strategies to organize themselves and any new material; techniques to use while reading, writing, and doing math; and systematic steps to follow when working through a task or reflecting upon their learning.

The world of active learning has grown and changed throughout the pandemic as many traditional methods of instruction are not possible because of social distancing. Highly adaptable classroom spaces are going to become critical as students will need to stay spread out throughout the day. Spaces4Learning suggests using mobile whiteboards that can be moved between students to support creativity and collaboration. If a moveable whiteboard is unavailable, for those who are creative and resourceful, they recommend using markable desks as whiteboards. They also suggest that educators find ways to blend physical and virtual learning environments as some schools choose to have a mixed model returning this year. Allowing students to have shared online workspaces that they use in-person and virtually will allow for better collaboration and make the transition between school and home easier. Many educators are approaching this hybrid school year worried about how to engage students on both fronts.

In Leon County, Florida, the 4-H Club embraced remote learning by engaging its members with virtual youth programs. The club offered weekly online lessons and activities on cooking, gardening, basic engineering, arts and crafts, books, and pet care. Hands-on activities are an integral part of 4-H virtual programming. 4-H is known for its “learn-by-doing” approach to education. Despite moving to online platforms, Leon County 4-H found ways to engage youth with a variety of at-home projects. Many cities are working to expand active learning opportunities outside of the classroom. In Chicago, groups are coming together to redevelop activities in and around the city to be socially distant so that families can safely enrich their child’s education. The Museum of Science and Industry is offering online science lessons and projects and kid-friendly hiking trails are adding scavenger hunts for children to participate in by exploring the area around them.


General Motors Corporate Giving Grants

Deadline: September 30
Award amounts vary and are given to support projects in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), as well as community development. Grants should demonstrate innovative approaches to address a defined social issue.

Sparkplug Grants

Deadline: October 5
Award amount varies and is given to start-up organizations and new projects of established organizations in music, education, and community organizing. The educational focus for this organization is to support projects that deal with the whole student and with learning as a community activity. Past projects have focused on literacy that brought parents and children together to learn, projects that used a neighborhood as a classroom, and projects that helped teachers share ideas about creative and relevant curricula. The foundation is especially interested in supporting critical and investigative thinking and projects that address class disparity in education. Its focus is very specific, supporting community-based education empowerment. In some cases, this means offering programs within schools that address disparities among students, or community programs that teach basic skills like reading and mathematics to youth who are not adequately served by schools. These programs often take place in locales outside schools and after the school day.

Cyberlearning for Work at the Human-Technology Frontier

Deadline: January 11
Award amounts vary and are given to support learning technology research that integrates both learning and technological goals to enable radical improvements in learning within educational and work environments. Cyberlearning research in this program should be informed by the convergence of multiple disciplines: education and learning sciences; computer and information science and engineering; and cognitive, behavioral, and social sciences. Projects should be exploratory and experimental in nature. Proposals should 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.

Out-of-School Time Career Pathway Program

Deadline: September 21
Awards range from $375,000 to $625,000 for the first year, with potential for five years of funding and are given to support demonstration projects with education, community, and industry partners that expand options for high school students to build skills leading to industry-recognized apprenticeships and certifications in high-demand sectors or occupations. Proposals are expected to build or expand career pathway programs leading to postsecondary credentials that are offered outside of regular school hours or as part of expanded learning programs, align with existing programs of study, incorporate state academic standards, and deploy robust student support services. While high school students are targeted participants, middle school students may be included as appropriate.

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