Fostering a Climate and Culture that ensures success for all students
By Shannon Peterson, Executive Director of Student Achievement & Glenn Maleyko, Ph.D., Superintendent of Dearborn Public Schools
Dearborn Schools is committed to ensuring that all students are career and college ready. With a population of 20,907 of which 47% are English Learners (several refugees and newcomer students), 8% special education and a 68% poverty level, it’s even more important for us to continually explore avenues to support students to become successful.
In 2011, Dearborn Public Schools’ graduation rates were on a five-year decline. Amidst transcript errors, fewer students graduating, changing demographics and increasing enrollment, district leadership collaborated with high school principals to find a solution. The district implemented a new model and focus on graduation rates that included the creation of a Graduation Intervention Specialist (GIS) at the high school level. The implementation of this model has resulted in district graduation rates that peaked at 95.% with dropout rates less than 2%. We have one of the top Graduation Rates in the state when compared to other large school districts.
Four-year graduation rates have also increased for our subgroups. In 2012, English Learners (EL) graduation rates were 79%. The current graduation rate for EL students is 90%. Economically disadvantaged graduation rates have also improved from 85% in 2012 to 93.55% currently. Graduation rates for students with disabilities have increased at a slower rate. In 2012, the graduation rate for students with disabilities was 63.5% and is currently 69%. African American graduation rates have increased by 15% since 2012 and are currently at 89%.
Dearborn Public Schools has three comprehensive high schools, two early colleges and one alternative high school with an overall high school enrollment of 6,956. The GIS is a unique position created to intervene early and often when a high school student fails a class and falls behind. Their primary goal is to ensure that every student graduates on time and is prepared to become successful after graduation. The state graduation requirement is a minimum of 18 credits. Dearborn Public Schools requires 23 credits for graduation so a student who fails a class could be in jeopardy of not completing the requirements within four years. With the very first failure, the GIS initiates a meeting with students and parents to create a plan for credit recovery.
During the first year of implementation (2010), the GIS focused heavily on addressing transcript errors. This included a review of the policy and an audit of all 12th-grade transcripts. Through this process, they created transcript protocols for all three high schools to implement in order to complete an annual audit every June. Every transcript is reviewed prior to June graduation. Counselors meet with the GIS and are expected to review transcripts for their caseload every semester. The GIS model focussed on increasing enrollment in the credit recovery classes that were held after school and during the summer. At the end of each semester, the GIS met with students who failed one or more classes and facilitated the enrollment into credit recovery courses. There was a specific focus on ninth and tenth graders to minimize the number of students who were not projected to graduate (off-track students) within 4 years. Lastly, the GIS worked on systems to identify, track, and support at-risk students to implement researched-based programs and intervention strategies to help the students. Interpersonal contact (both with students and parents) was heavily emphasized. GIS often found themselves as mediators between students, parents and/or teachers to resolve academic conflicts and create solutions to assist the students to get back on track. Tracking attendance, meeting with students who were failing classes weekly or bi-weekly were regular and daily tasks during year one.
Now in the seventh year of implementation, Dearborn High School GIS Christopher Minor says “the heart of the job remains the same but some of the context
has changed. Some of the systemic, easier problems have been resolved to allow us to focus on more complex cases. Failure rates have been reduced, graduation rates have increased, and processes for some of our common procedures, like enrollment in credit recovery classes, have been established. In some cases, our role has expanded to lead or be part of a larger intervention team.” The GIS still reviews transcripts every June, work with counselors throughout the year with transcript issues, meet regularly with off-track students and coordinate the credit recovery classes. The GIS spend the majority of their time with at-risk students finding solutions. If a student is in jeopardy of dropping out or does not show up for school, the GIS will reach out to the family in order to ensure that the student attends school on a routine basis.
Dearborn Public Schools graduation rates are at an all-time high at 95% and our philosophy is that the GIS will continue this work in collaboration with our instructional faculty to implement researched based best practices until a 100% graduation rate is achieved. The GIS know the students by name, seek solutions, advocate, and develop meaningful relationships with their students and the families that they serve. While the GIS have been important leaders with increasing our graduation rates, we know that it takes an entire district with multiple interventions to meet the needs of our students and ensure that they graduate on time.