GradNation Acceleration Initiative
In 2010, America’s Promise, along with its campaign co-conveners, set the national goal of a 90 percent graduation rate by 2020 and created the GradNation campaign to mobilize efforts towards that goal. Over the past several years, practitioners and youth-serving organizations have refined the practices, policies, and relationships needed to successfully support young people to high school completion. In addition, they have collectively deepened their knowledge of the barriers young people face in reaching that milestone.
With a national graduation rate of 84.1 percent in 2016, progress has been made, but a continued urgent commitment is necessary to accelerate progress towards 90 percent. Progress for young people is happening at the state and community levels, in collaboration with schools.
With generous support from AT&T, America’s Promise will work with five grantees – two states and three communities over two years – to accelerate progress to a 90 percent graduation rate. Answering the call to act on the needs of youth in their communities, these non-profit and government partnerships with school districts represent some of the best thinking in the nation when it comes to improving graduation rates.
The GradNation Acceleration Grant will support existing state and community efforts that are poised to support even more young people. The intended outcomes for this work include: an increase to the graduation rate, shared learning for adoption and replication in other states and communities, and strengthened local capacity to improve outcomes for young people based on their needs and strengths.
Roughly 5,000 young people are estimated to be reached across the five grantees.
Based on a quantitative and qualitative analysis of states that would have a measurable impact on improving the national graduation rate and closing equity gaps, America’s Promise selected the following 10 states to prioritize acceleration activities:
- 1. California
- 2. Colorado
- 3. Florida
- 4. Georgia
- 5. Michigan
- 6. New Mexico
- 7. North Carolina
- 8. Oregon
- 9. Pennsylvania
- 10. Washington
Progress in these states would make compelling national progress. If these 10 priority states achieved a 90 percent graduation rate, an additional 131,968 students would need to graduate and the national graduation rate would increase to 85.9 percent. Of these students, 119,499 are low-income students (90 percent), 40,297 are Black (30 percent), 54,801 are Hispanic (41 percent), 46,351 are students with disabilities (35 percent), and 34,144 are English learners (26 percent). See the Frequently Asked Questions (updated 9/29) for more information on the analysis.
State Acceleration Grantees
State grantees were selected from a large pool of applicants. Selected grantees demonstrated deep knowledge of student data and student need and matched this knowledge with a track record of responsive services. In addition, selected grantees set rigorous benchmarks for youth and programmatic outcomes based on an existing record of success. Over these two years, each grantee will expand or replicate its program to reach more youth.
Youth Solutions Inc. - Jobs for Michigan’s Graduates (JMG) will expand its model into low-graduation rate high schools across the state. Michigan’s graduation rate is 79.7 percent and large graduation rate gaps by race and income persist. Dropout Prevention and Recovery efforts will include mentoring, career advising and exposure, training, and competency-based curriculum, as well as 12 months of follow-up after high school graduation. With support from over 50 local and national partners, and a strong relationship with the state’s Department of Talent and Economic Development, JMG’s approach connects students with learning beyond the classroom that prepares them to succeed through high school and into the workforce.
The Georgia Division of Family and Children Services uses high-quality data to identify, implement, and sustain best practices to support foster youth in Fulton and DeKalb Counties. The state averages a 79 percent graduation rate, but only 11 percent of foster students earn diplomas; the number of foster youth increased 80 percent in the last four years. Foster youth face disruptions to their education that lead to academic underperformance and increase the likelihood of their leaving school prior to graduating. In response, the program intends to strengthen the system’s capacity to address the needs of foster youth through advisory workgroups, research on program impact, and cross-agency collaborative learning.
Community Acceleration Grantees
Community grantees were selected from a large pool of applicants. Selected grantees demonstrated deep knowledge of student data and student need and matched this knowledge with a track record of responsive services. In addition, selected grantees set rigorous benchmarks for youth and programmatic outcomes based on an existing record of success. Over these two years, each grantee will expand or replicate its program to reach more youth.
Greeley-Evans School District 6 in northeastern Colorado has a graduation rate of 78.7 percent (2017) and will focus its efforts on students at the Greeley Alternative Program (GAP) in partnership with Zero Dropouts. GAP enrolls students at risk of dropping out of high school or who face barriers to success in traditional high schools by providing an innovative instructional program combined with wraparound services. With support from partners, the district provides these students with supports including childcare, housing assistance, substance abuse and mental health counseling. The district also seeks to provide every student with a paid internship, concurrent enrollment in a CTE and/or general education courses, and access to personalized tutoring.
Since 2013, United Way of Central New Mexico has worked with over 300 local, regional, state, and national partners to develop and implement a cradle-to-career education partnership, called Mission: Graduate. Albuquerque Public Schools (APS) is a majority Hispanic district serving high rates of students living in poverty and learning English. In 2016, the district’s 4-year graduation rate was 66 percent. As partners in Mission: Graduate, United Way and APS will work with Rio Grande High School to expand use of the school’s early warning system program to support off-track juniors and seniors and work to re-engage youth who have already left school. These students will gain access to college and career exploration opportunities in addition to mentors and counselors.
Proyecto Pastoral is the backbone organization of Promesa Boyle Heights, a collaborative of residents, organizations, and schools working in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles. The schools in this region have an 82 percent graduation rate, but English Learner (EL) students only have a 52 percent graduation rate. Promesa Boyle Heights has been actively working to improve overall community graduation rates since 2012. Promesa Boyle Heights will expand these efforts by deepening supports for English Learners at Mendez and Roosevelt High School, and expand support to English Learners at the alternative campus, Boyle Heights High School, focusing on Long-Term English Learners (LTELs) and Newcomer ELs. In identifying practices for these types of ELs, Promesa Boyle Heights aims to inform school capacity to address EL needs and develop student and parent skills to advocate for ELs.
- State awards are $250,000 over a two-year grant period.
- Community awards are $100,000 over a two-year grant period.