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Knowledge From the Field

Fighting the Drop-Out Crisis

Published: July 2010

Publisher(s): Washington Monthly

Author(s): Colvin, Richard Lee; Sarah Garland; Betsy Hammond; Dale Mezzacappa

Funder(s): Boston Foundation, Carnegie Corporation of New York, Nellie Mae Education Foundation, Spencer Foundation, William Penn Foundation

View Report (16 pages; 2.79MB; HTML)

Fighting the Drop-Out Crisis

Area of focus: Low-Performing Schools


This report describes efforts to decrease rising high school drop out rates, particularly in New York, Philadelphia and Portland, Oregon. It outlines the data-driven process of replacing low-performing schools with smaller schools or alternative schools and programs and the results of this process to date.

Key Findings and/or Recommendations

+Cities with high expectation of students and strong accountability among individual schools were more successful in curbing drop out rates, regardless of which alternative methods were used.

=Success in reducing high school drop out rates often varies according to the quality and effectiveness of leaders and civic actors at the local level.

=Eventual drop out status can usually be predicted at the ninth grade level; at-risk factors include poor academic performance, particularly in the areas of math and English, poor attendance and failure to earn enough credits during the year.

Geographic Focus: New York, Philadelphia and Portland, Oregon; National

Subjects/Keywords: Low performing schools; high school drop out rates; accountability; alternative schools; high school graduation rates

+ Successful strategy
= Observation
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