On June 6, the Dropout Recovery and Prevention Online Community of Practice (COP) hosted a webinar titled, “Partners in Dropout Recovery: Getting Creative to Find and Recruit Students.” This webinar represented the first dissemination and network engagement event of the community, which is managed by the American Institutes for Research through the Connected Educators project and co-sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology and Office of Elementary and Secondary Education. The community is focused on improving outcomes for over-age, under-credited learners, with an emphasis on helping schools play a central role in dropout recovery through partnering with other community organizations. It operates using a dual strategy, functioning both as a closed community and field-engaged group. As a closed community, 13 teams of practitioners convene to discover and refine shared expertise and to be directly responsive to their shared needs and interests. Growing out of the closed internal interaction, the core community engages with a broad social network to periodically curate content out of activity that can be disseminated with considerable reach and speed and at modest cost to diffuse knowledge and identify opportunities for innovation.
The webinar—which evolved out of early conversations during the community’s monthly web-meetings and inter-team resource sharing on the community Wikispaces site—engaged a national audience to learn about knowledge generated or made explicit by the community’s activity in the first five months of 2013. During the webinar, three teams from the community shared their experiences implementing creative and innovative ways to find and re-engage the toughest to reach students who have dropped out of school. The team from Colorado Youth for a Change shared their innovative text message and interactive online video campaign that helped reduce Colorado dropout totals by 32%, including a 68% reduction in Boulder Valley Schools and a 58% reduction in Englewood Schools. The team representing Portland Community Based Alternative Programs and Reconnection Services explained efforts to find creative ways to keep the power of building meaningful personal relationships at the front of efforts to re-engage over 1,300 students. California’s Riverside County Office of Education Come Back Kids program team discussed their creative strategies to scale outreach to potential students across a large geographic area and working with the larger school community to not only decrease the percentage of dropouts in the county but also to increase the county-wide high school graduation rate.
As a community, this is the first in a series of issues the teams plan to explore this year. Rather than dictate topics for exploration and activity, AIR facilitates activities and interactions that allow member teams to shape the priorities and specific topics and activities for the community to implement. Other areas identified that may be prioritized for future engagement opportunities include:
- Keeping students re-engaged once they have been recruited via immediate opportunities for success and tangible outcomes
- Engaging diverse stakeholders to serve re-engaged and re-enrolled youth
- Tracking students before, during, and after re-engagement
- Funding to serve re-engaged and re-enrolled youth
- Recruiting and retaining teachers to serve re-engaged and re-enrolled youth
- Ensuring college and career readiness and success for re-engaged youth
- Developing curriculum and instructional materials to serve re-engaged and re-enrolled youth
For individuals interested in exploring this conversation further, the webinar archive recording and the resources from each presentation are available on the Dropout Recovery and Prevention Community page on the Connected Educators website. A summary of the webinar will also soon be available. Practitioners looking to join the conversation can follow the Connected Educators project on Twitter at @edcocp or contact project leaders Darren Cambridge firstname.lastname@example.org or Marshal Conley email@example.com.
Marshal Conley, a Senior Technical Assistance Consultant, serves as Community Manager for the Dropout Recovery and Prevention Online Community of Practice and is Deputy Project Director of the Connected Educators project.