In the afterschool world, the start of summer signifies the end of the school year, but for me, this summer signals my new beginning as research associate at the Afterschool Alliance. I was able to dive right into exciting research out in the field, and during my first week with the Afterschool Alliance, I attended a briefing on utilizing early warning indicator systems to identify students in middle grades who are in danger of dropping out and how to keep them on track for graduation and improve their chances of future success.
The indicators are easy to remember—simply A-B-C, or attendance, behavior and course performance. The briefing was informative and illuminating and included speakers from the research, policy and practice worlds, who shared the importance of collecting and monitoring student data, as well as implementing interventions to respond to the needs of students. One finding that really resonated with me was that it is a student’s academic knowledge AND academic behavior that determines his or her success. Students need to feel that school is for them, and a key way to make that happen is to create programs that engage students. Dr. Robert Balfanz, co-director of the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University, spoke on the importance of programs—such as robotics, drama and chess—that excite students about learning and include applicable academic lessons.
A key take away from the event for me was that afterschool programs provide a much-needed complement to the school day, compelling students to attend classes while also improving academic achievement and building valuable social and life skills such as self-discipline, self-confidence, leadership and teamwork.
The briefing, “Early Warning Indicator Systems: A Tool for High-Performing Middle Grades Schools,” was hosted by the Alliance for Excellent Education, the Association for Middle Level Education, the National Association of Secondary School Principals, the National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ). If you have time, I highly recommend checking out a recording of the briefing.