With a new report by the America’s Promise Alliance garnering attention on the decline of dropout/ push-out rates, it is also important to highlight specific activities at the local level that are paving the way to these positive results. In the state of Virginia, intervention specialists are part of a new initiative in the Patrick Henry High School, part of the Roanoke County Public Schools, to help raise graduation rates. The strategy requires the tracing of student attendance starting in the 9th grade against cohort lists in order to focus on students who may fall behind or who stop attending school altogether. The interventions employed at Patrick Henry stem from research that points to the 9th grade as the “make or break” year for the following reasons:

1. It’s a transition year from middle school to high school.
2. More students fail the 9th grade than in any grade in high school.
3. The most powerful indicators as to whether a student will complete high school – 9th grade attendance and grades.

Schools like Patrick Henry are taking the right steps by utilizing data to develop interventions that are targeted and greatly needed. With the second lowest graduation rate in the state of Virginia, Roanoke is committing all that is necessary (resources, staff, specialized attention to student needs) to proactively address the dropout issue. We cannot stress how important it is to recognize the progress being made by intervention programs that not only target at-risk students, but those that target all students based specific needs. We hope that a similarly balanced model can be replicated in other parts of the country that are currently contemplating dropout intervention and recovery programs.

  • To read the full article on Patrick Henry High School click here.
  • For more information on improving graduation rates read America’s Promise Alliance’s new report: Building a Grad Nation.