Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Panel Paper: Getting to the Finish Line in Alabama

Thursday, November 12, 2015 : 9:10 AM
Tuttle Center (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Joanna Hornig Fox, Johns Hopkins University
The goal of Getting to the Finish Line (GFL) is to examine the impact of a system of using data and aligning and implementing existing interventions – or designing and implementing new ones – to enable promoting more first time ninth-graders to tenth grade as a key precursor to eventual on-time graduation. The work is based on evidence over the last 10 years from the Center for Social Organization of Schools/Everyone Graduates Center (CSOS/EGC), School of Education, Johns Hopkins University, and from the University of Chicago Consortium for Chicago School Reform (CCSR) (as well as many others more recently) that ninth grade success is pivotal year for high school graduation.

The centerpiece of GFL is provision of a new part-time promotion coach position to study schools, responsible for collecting and analyzing attendance, behavior and course-passing/credit accrual data (ABCs) to the degree possible on a bi-weekly basis; creating a “support list” based on these factors; and mobilizing a team of adults, including the principal or his/her designee (assistant principal), counselor, social worker if available, and grade-level teachers to review support list student needs, suggest interventions aligned with needs, and monitor and improve interventions as needed.  Typically, these interventions are Tier II or Tier III, eg small group or one-on-one.  The promotion coach and team are also expected to note and act on patterns in the data that indicate the need for school-wide, Tier I, comprehensive strategies, typically for improving awareness and school climate.   

The GFL approach is similar to that taken in two other well-regarded CSOS school improvement models, also for low performing schools: Talent Development Secondary and Diplomas Now (DN). However these models have an extensive set of complementary elements including curricular and instructional support, organizational support for data use and restructuring the school’s use of time, and in DN, wrap-around intervention supports, including near-peer mentors from City Year and case management support from Communities in Schools.

In contrast to TDS and DN, GFL isolates the data use position and associated team operations and interventions, and has been implemented in environments that are otherwise resource-poor. Two sequential cohorts of 10 schools (20 implementation, 20 comparison) were randomly selected from the 2010-2011 pool of the 75 lowest-performing Alabama comprehensive high schools with grades 9-12 (out of 332).  Schools had graduation rates of 75 percent or lower and had more than 100 students in ninth grade.  A uniform statewide student information system (INOW) and an overlaid Graduation Tracking System (GTS) that easily generated reports with ABC risk factor analysis were already in place; the Alabama State Department of Education (ALSE) was and is a key liaison. ABC and administrative data is being collected through the ALSDE and local districts, with qualitative data separately collected through teacher and student surveys, analysis of coach’s weekly logs, observers’ findings and telephone interviews with school and district personnel.

Early results are ambiguous. GFL extends through March, 2016 and it is anticipated that by the time of the APPAM meeting, additional results will be available.