Emerging & Promising Practices
The National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, in the Institute of Education Sciences, has released a new practice guide from its What Works Clearinghouse, the “Dropout Prevention Practice Guide,” with specific evidence-based recommendations useful to educators in high schools and middle schools, to superintendents and school boards, and to state policymakers in planning and executing dropout prevention strategies.
This study, conducted by the National Dropout Prevention Center/Network and sponsored by Communities In Schools, Inc., finds that there are multiple risk factors which increase the likelihood that students will drop out. The evidence clearly shows that dropout is always the result of a long process of disengagement that sometimes begins even before the child enrolls in kindergarten. The report also provides information on 50 programs that were found to be effective in addressing these risk factors.
The National Dropout Prevention Center for Students with Disabilities has archived their August 2010 webinar, “Strategies to Increase School Completion Rates for Students with or at Risk for Emotional/Behavioral Disorders” on their Web site.
Although dropout prevention strategies for special education students are not studied as often as those for general education students, the three programs listed below – ALAS, APEX, and Check & Connect – have been found by the What Works Clearinghouse to be effective for special education students.
ALAS (Spanish for “wings”) is an intervention for middle and high school students that is designed to address student, school, family, and community factors that affect dropping out. Each student is assigned a counselor/mentor who monitors attendance, behavior, and academic achievement. The counselor/mentor provides feedback and coordinates interventions and resources to students, families, and teachers. Counselors/mentors also serve as advocates for students and intervene when problems are identified. Students are trained in problem-solving, self-control, and assertiveness skills. Parents are trained in parent-child problem solving, how to participate in school activities, and how to contact teachers and school administrators to address issues.
Achievement in Dropout Prevention and Excellence (APEX) is a project of the Institute on Disability at the University of New Hampshire. APEX provides direct services, training, and technical assistance to New Hampshire schools that have higher than state average dropout rates and high rates of disciplinary problems among special education students. It provides high-quality training for middle and high schools throughout the state. The primary dropout prevention component of APEX is a comprehensive systems-change model called “Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports” (PBIS). PBIS is a systematic, evidence-based behavioral support and improvement process that consists of three levels of tiered interventions: schoolwide (a schoolwide leadership team is formed in each school to evaluate and redesign discipline systems, using the PBIS model), secondary (a team of specialists and administrators is established in each school that focuses on students who exhibit challenging behaviors and who are at risk for school failure due to academic, social, or behavioral issues), and intensive (a facilitator is assigned to individual students to provide intensive interventions for students who are struggling to complete their program or who have already dropped out of school).
Check & Connect is data-driven and grounded in research on resiliency and home-school collaboration. Student referral criteria include alterable warning signs of school withdrawal – primarily attendance indices (absences, tardies, or skipping class)—in the context of academic performance and emotional or behavioral problems. Check & Connect is implemented by a person referred to as a monitor or mentor. The person is a cross between a mentor, an advocate, and a service coordinator whose primary goal is to keep education a salient issue for disengaged students and their teachers and family members. The monitor/mentor works with a caseload of students and families over time (at least two years) and follows their caseload from program to program and school to school. Check & Connect is structured to maximize personal contact and opportunities to build trusting relationships. Student levels of engagement (such as attendance, grades, suspensions) are "checked" regularly and used to guide the monitors' efforts to improve and maintain students' "connection" with school.
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