The GradMinnesota Initiative is making an impressive and substantial effort to improve graduation rates and proposes seven key recommendations to continue making such progress. Examples of these recommendations in practice are evident at several sites partnering with GradMinnesota: Washington Technical Magnet School in St. Paul, the College Knowledge Fair held at Concordia University, and the West Education Center, an alternative program in District 287.
Here are the seven recommended approaches:
- Ensure and Utilize Quality Data: Student performance as early as grade school can signal whether or not that student will leave or drop out. An early warning system that combines multiple data points, ranging from attendance and behavior to academic performance, can be used to identify and provide a framework of supports for students who may not be on track to graduate.
- Provide a Tiered Framework of Interventions and Support: Support for students comes through a tiered framework that ranges from universal efforts to encourage all students; targeted supports for students with early warning indicators; and intensive supports for those at high risk of not graduating.
- Increase Mentoring: Minnesota Alliance with Youth believes at-risk students need support, not punitive warnings. The GradMinnesota Initiative actively promotes mentoring as a key strategy that empowers adults to make a difference in the lives of youth.
- Recover and Re-engage: Once a student leaves school, they can become lost to the education system. The GradMinnesota Initiative supports building a coordinated system to re-engage these students. Offering young people the ability to return to school or to take advantage of alternative learning options that will allow them to earn their diploma is critical.
- Replace Exclusionary Discipline Procedures with Alternatives: Research shows zero tolerance behavior policies can actually increase long-term problems for students and can push them out of school. Worse, they disproportionately affect boys, and are often used to punish minor misconduct. GradMinnesota encourages a revision of exclusionary policies in favor of alternatives that teach and promote better behaviors.
- Provide Transportation: Lack of transportation is a barrier that affects students who need access to nontraditional education programs, including after school programs, alternative learning centers, or college courses to succeed. GradMinnesota is working on transportation solutions that allow equal access to programming for all students.
- Champion Alternative Pathways and Additional Time: The availability and accessibility of alternative forms of education help students who are challenged by traditional school settings. For example, some students may need more time or innovative programming to complete school and successfully move onto opportunities in the workforce or continuing education.
GradMinnesota is made up of Minnesota Alliance With Youth, the Office of the Governor, and Minnesota Department of Education. To read more about the initiative, visit: https://mnyouth.net/work/gradminnesota/.