What are the daily actions adults in schools must take to ensure students attend regularly, are engaged in schoolwork, and learn to high standards? This three-year project funded by the U.S. Dept. of Education’s Institute for Education Sciences is developing and piloting an attendance outreach and incentive program, an academic counseling and support program, and a team-based behavior management program.
Each component is designed to address a specific point of disengagement that many struggling students experience during the transition into high school, and to provide students with the support, skills, incentives, and perspectives they need to negotiate the transition successfully.
The project addresses shortcomings of current middle and high school reform efforts by moving beyond a focus on structure (e.g. small learning communities) and applying emerging understandings of adolescent engagement and the factors that push students off the path to graduation. The interventions are being piloted in middle and high schools with a high degree of academic and social challenge where strong interventions are needed to motivate adolescents to learn, attend school regularly, and persist to graduation.
Interventions emphasize the daily, relational work of promoting strong attendance, positive behavior, and students’ engagement in their academic success. By focusing on both middle and early high school grades, they also aim to offer consistency of care through students’ transition into high school—reducing the number of students who enter high school with “one foot out the school door” already and enabling ninth-grade interventions to be more effective with a larger number of students because the students will have experienced similar supports throughout the middle grades.