Dropout Prevention, Intervention, and Recovery News From NDPC

Vol 21, no 1 January 2021

Dropout Prevention Update

From the National Dropout Prevention Center
January 2021—Vol. 21, No. 1

Effective Strategies


Mentoring is typically 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 typically a one-to-one activity, focuses on academic support and is an effective practice when addressing specific needs in collaboration with the student’s base teacher.

Mentoring is a critical strategy that allows educators and the community to engage with at-risk students. Mentoring has become even more important as many students face isolation during this pandemic. This January, National Mentoring Month is being celebrated to showcase the power of mentoring even virtually. Pueblo Mentoring Collaborative, in Colorado Springs, is celebrating the annual campaign by raising awareness about mentoring opportunities to connect more of the community’s young people with caring adult mentors. In Gothenburg, Nebraska, the TeamMates Program and local school district are working together to push a strong start for new mentors during National Mentoring Month by promoting new online initiatives and publications to recruit and match mentors. Gothenburg TeamMates was able to give three scholarships to local seniors last year thanks to the generosity of donors who support the program.

In New York, the Bigs and Littles mentoring program has adapted to continue to support struggling youth in the city through the pandemic. Last spring, leaders of the organization, which oversees about 200 matches while also incorporating the mentee’s entire family in the process, immediately raised and set aside funds so that every child had a phone, computer, and working Wi-Fi to do online school and to meet virtually with mentors. The organization finds that its work is more important than ever as well over 4,000 children in New York state have lost a parent to the virus.

A new study by the Center for the Study of Social Policy shows that while adverse childhood experiences can often lead to long-term poor health, negative social interactions, and criminal outcomes in youth, positive mentoring relationships are among the best mitigators of these circumstances. “Positive experiences, ranging from infant attachment to mentoring for adolescents, are essential to children’s well-being and their development into mentally, emotionally, and physically healthy adults,” according to the study. “This appreciation of the need for positive relationships and experiences builds from our prior understanding about the impact of adversity on child development. Altogether, we are now beginning to appreciate the power of positive relationships and experience on human brain development and function.”

Service Learning

Service-learning connects meaningful community service experiences with academic learning. This teaching/learning method promotes personal and social growth, career development, and civic responsibility and can be a powerful vehicle for effective school reform at all grade levels.

Hopkins High School, in Coon Rapids, Minnesota, is reworking their long-running service-learning program to include students participating in community volunteering by helping at daycare centers, at food shelves and thrift shops, or volunteering at after-school tutoring programs in place of a social studies class. While observing social distancing, students volunteer to deliver groceries or tutor younger students online. Since students are doing distance learning, some have been volunteering closer to home helping neighbors. At Perry High School, in Willoughby, Ohio, students are taking on service learning in kayak expeditions. Perry Service Learning is an elective for seniors at Perry High School that combines English and social studies with volunteer opportunities to promote social involvement through education and service. Seniors recently conducted a project to remove trash that could pose a danger to plant and animal life found in the watershed of Grand River. The project allowed students to make observations and reach conclusions that could not be provided by simply reading class materials about environmental pollution.

The National Youth Leadership Council has published a list of some best practices for service-learning online. The Council found through a survey that educators across the country are using service-learning to address problems in their community that have been exacerbated by the pandemic such as hunger, homelessness, mental health, and education equity. Among the best practices are setting norms, cultivating belonging, identifying learning outcomes, and focusing on the process. The National Youth Leadership Council also has the acronym IPARD to help design service-learning projects. It stands for investigation, planning and preparation, action, reflection, and demonstration.

Career and Technical Education (CTE)

Quality CTE programs and related career pathways and guidance programs with P-20W orientation are essential for all students. Youth need workplace skills as well as awareness and focus to increase not only the likelihood that they will be prepared for their careers, but also that school will be relevant to what is next.

In Salisbury, North Carolina, the Rowan-Salisbury Schools Career and Technical Education program chose to explore multiple virtual options while the traditional options remain limited. They have developed a CTE Work-Based Webinar series that airs on Wednesdays to showcases career paths that students can take after high school. These career paths often work with community and industry partners so that students can build professional networks. In Gloucester, Massachusetts, local high school students are offered vocational training and college credits for free through their CTE Partnership/After Dark program. The students take their core academics at their home schools in the morning and then head to the Essex Tech campus in Danvers in the afternoon for technical instruction in courses for construction craft laborer, advanced manufacturing, design and media communication, auto collision, and sustainable horticulture. Gaston County Schools, in North Carolina, is celebrating the success of their CTE program as it won state awards in 2020 after awarding nearly 3,000 credentials to students! The district credits their success to pushing for more CTE work five years ago while engaging local industry.

CTE programs in Lubbock, Texas, are helping students prepare for jobs that are available even with economic uncertainty. Local technical colleges are offering dual credit CTE classes for skilled workers, such as electricians, plumbers, and mechanics. Rob Blair, the Head of Technical Education at South Plains College said that nearly all the technical education programs maintain a 90 percent graduate-placement rate and that the classes focus on hands-on, real-world experience and offer industry certifications alongside educational credits.

Oregon’s statewide graduation rate rose 2.6% last year and the state report shows part of the credit goes to CTE programs. Career and Technical Education participants (those students taking at least one CTE course) graduated at a rate of 90.8 percent in four years and CTE concentrators (students passing two classes in a CTE Program of Study) had a 94.8 percent graduation rate in four years. Crook County School District saw its highest district-wide graduation rate since 2008. Crooks County High School Principal said, “CTE classes help improve grades in core classes because they offer students a real-life, hands-on experience that keeps them engaged and more excited to come to school. CCHS is proud to offer one of the most robust CTE programs in the region that includes classes like health occupations, ag science, natural resources, graphic design, culinary arts, business marketing, computer science, and robotics. And we’re getting ready to launch a new construction program as well.”


Graef Family Foundation Grants

May 31, Annually
Grants of up to $20,00 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 have been 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.

Restoration & Resilience COVID Recovery Grants (Service-Learning Projects)

Deadline: April 1 and June 1, 2021
Awards of up $2,500 are awarded to help restore public lands that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic due to increased use. Activities must engage volunteers and represent a specific project. Examples of eligible projects are addressing wear and tear on trails, increased litter, or postponed projects such as removing invasive species and new plantings, with a focus on conservation, maintenance, or preservation. Conservation projects consider environmental concerns and aim to protect biodiversity, wildlife, wild places, or endangered species. Maintenance projects restore or enhance park infrastructure. Cultural and historical preservation projects focus on protecting historically significant land. The grant program has three funding cycles in 2021.

Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers

Deadline: August 13, 2021
Awards vary. The Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) 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: (1) increase students' awareness of STEM occupations; (2) motivate students to pursue the appropriate education pathways for STEM occupations; and (3) develop disciplinary-based knowledge and practices or promote critical thinking, reasoning, or communication skills needed for entering STEM workforce sectors.

Community Development and Social Change Program, Environmental Preservation Program, and Educational Program

Deadline: June 1
Awards vary and are given by the Goggio Family Foundation in three areas. 1. Community development and social change promoting social progress and sustainable economic development through advances in science, health, arts, and technology. The foundation seeks ways to support leadership development, community empowerment, and economic development, with a priority to serve the needs of low-income and disadvantaged individuals and communities. 2. Environmental preservation supporting technology innovation, education, and action around issues of energy and climate change, as well as strategies for the protection, restoration, and sustainable management of ecosystems. The foundation has a special interest in promoting consensus-building among government, business, and non-governmental organizations aimed at improving environmental policies. 3 Education encouraging the attainment of knowledge and skills, and the practice of responsible citizenship, through access to learning opportunities. The foundation supports innovative programs to develop leadership skills, provide support to at-risk or disenfranchised youth, and support programs that promote academic excellence, artistic expression, and critical thinking.

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