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dropout prevention

Helping Educators Identify At-Risk Students

  • Rob Noroian
  • August 28, 2018

These tests and tools for predicting at-risk students may put us out of the dropout recovery business. Thank goodness.

For nearly a decade, Graduation Alliance has worked with school districts across the nation to re-engage dropped out students and support those who are still enrolled but acutely at risk of leaving school.

Last year, we decided we wanted to help our partnering districts ensure students never become a risk in the first place—by giving school leaders the tools they need to predict which students will need additional social and emotional learning support.

“It’s not hard to know which students are at risk of not graduating once they are struggling in school,” said the organization’s co-founder and chief academic officer, Rebekah Richards. “But what the research shows is school leaders can actually identify which students are mostly likely to struggle years earlier. By teaching those students the skills they need to be successful, we can make a tremendous difference is a lot of people’s lives.”

Our social and emotional learning assessment is based on more than 20 years of research demonstrating that students who are going to become at-risk can be identified up to three years ahead of time. When those students are provided additional support in the form of curriculum that helps them learn skills like motivation, determination and resilience, they can reach graduation at rates at and beyond their peers.

The creator of the assessment and developer of the interventionary curriculum is Boston University professor and psychologist Dr. Scott Solberg.

“When I talk to school leaders, they’re often feeling quite despondent about the students they are losing, because they feel like they’ve tried everything they can, but it’s just too late,” Solberg said. “These are people who have dedicated their lives to helping students, and when I put these tools in their hands and tell them they can help these student long before the acute problems materialize, they’re clearly excited.”

“Sometimes when we tell school leaders about these tools, they are a little perplexed because if students never become at-risk, our organization won’t have a dropout recovery mission,” Richards said. “Honestly, we’ve got a long way to go before then, but we’d love to get there. There’s nothing more I want in the world than to be able to say there’s no need for us to re-engage lost students anymore, because there are no lost students.”