In 2013, America's Promise Alliance and its Center for Promise committed to conduct focus groups in a minimum of 20 Grad Nation Communities to document the stories of high school dropouts, including why they dropped out, the reasons why they would like to re-engage or not re-engage, and the barriers and opportunities they see to re-engagement.
America's Promise Alliance will work with community partners in all regions of the country to recruit and conduct focus groups with 16 youth per community. The results of these focus groups will be provided back to the community partner with tactics for using the information to strengthen programming to support disconnected youth.
Based on the result of these focus groups, a survey will be conducted of more than 1,000 high school dropouts throughout the country. The survey respondents will be recruited through a multi-method approach: conducting surveys on the ground at locations in communities that have a high likelihood of foot traffic of dropouts (e.g., soup kitchens, social service centers) and organizations that engage dropouts (e.g., re-engagement programs); phone surveys conducted with those identified by phone banks of being likely to be dropouts; and online. The high school dropouts in the survey will be recruited from all regions of the country.
America's Promise Alliance will leverage data from this study to inform policymakers, raise awareness among the general public, and strengthen the work of community collaborations throughout the country. Specifically, America's Promise Alliance will develop and disseminate a report on the findings and publicize the report through traditional and social media, stakeholder outreach, an op-ed campaign in key markets, speaking opportunities, and visuals. America's Promise Alliance will also provide tools to help partner organizations promote the findings.
Conduct Focus Groups in 20 communities with 16 youth each: June-September 2013
Implement polling to collect the stories of 1,000 youth: July- September 2013
Analyze collection of data: October-December 2013
Disseminate a full report with recommendations on how organizations can better prevent or re-engage high school dropouts: January-February 2014 (in time for 2014 Grad Nation Summit)
America's Promise Alliance is the country's leading partnership of organizations and individuals committed to providing all young people with the opportunity to succeed in school and life. America's Promise recently launched its first-ever research center in collaboration with Tufts University. Through this commitment, the Center for Promise will raise up the voices of high school dropouts throughout America so that schools and broader communities can best support and re-engage them.
There have been a variety of research syntheses that have been written to distill the reasons why young people drop out of school. The factors range from risk factors (failing courses, being over-age, low attendance, behavior problems) to demographics (race, gender, income) to red flags (drug use, teen pregnancy). Few studies, however, have been undertaken to lift up the voice of young people, including those who actually drop out, in order to better understand, from their own perspectives, why they engage and disengage.
The last project to lift up these voices was The Silent Epidemic, completed in 2005 and representing students in a very small set of communities across the country. This initiative will build on that landmark study, capturing voices of dropouts throughout the country.
America's Promise is seeking financial resources to support a deeper dive into specific communities in order to explore how communities can use the youth voice data to better re-engage young people.
America's Promise is offering research support to partnering community collaborations so that they will have the capacity to capture the perspectives of the young people in their communities. America's Promise will also work to connect these local partners with others, through the Alliance network, who are expert at aligning youth voice with community action.