Dropout Prevention Summits Evaluation

America’s Promise Alliance commissioned an independent evaluation of its Dropout Prevention campaign revealed that the 105 summits it convened helped raise awareness, develop and strengthen partnerships, and influence policies and programming around high school dropout prevention at the state, local and school level. Specifically, the evaluation by Duke University’s Center for Child and Family Policy found that 80 percent of the workgroups established or tasked with carrying out or leading the post-summit work were still intact and making progress18-months later. Summit attendees were already engaged in this issue yet the evaluation found the number who felt a “sense of urgency” around the dropout crisis increased by 14 percentage points and the number who felt they had a “good understanding” of the dropout problem in their community or state increased by 11 percentage points following the summit.

Between 2008 and 2010, the Alliance co-convened and funded Dropout Prevention summits in all 50 states and 55 cities.  These summits marked the first phase the of the Alliance’s national efforts to raise awareness and drive action to reduce the nation’s high school dropout rate. More than 33,000 policy, business, education, community and faith leaders, nonprofits, parents and young people came together at these summits to discuss the dropout crisis in their communities and begin a dialogue on solutions around it. The first state Dropout Prevention Summit was held in Mississippi in February 2007 and the first city summit was held in Detroit, MI in April 2008.

Beth Gifford, Research Scientist at Duke and leader of the evaluation team said, “We found evidence of increased awareness of the dropout crisis, based on reports by participants as well as analysis of media coverage during this period.” 

Additional findings from the survey and evaluation revealed:

  • About half of the summits included representation from the state or city’s top public official. (In total, 25 governors and 24 mayors attended summits);
  • Average attendance for the summits was 330 people;
  • Three quarters of respondents indicated young people played a strong and visible role at the summits;
  • Nearly 2,800 organizations participated in the planning and follow-up work around the summits;
  • More than 80 percent saw an increase in political support for addressing dropout prevention and college readiness in their states and communities;
  • 22 new workgroups devoted to addressing the dropout problem were developed as a result of the summits;
  • 13 summit sites reported the creation of a new program or initiative targeted at low-performing schools or students which include a truancy reduction program in Wisconsin and the Youth Print Program in Louisville, an effort between the Metropolitan Louisville Government, Jefferson County Public Schools and the Metro United Way to better collaborate youth services;
  • Several summit sites felt the summit was at least partially responsible for new college readiness standards while two summit sites reported coordination and centralization of state and local data;
  • 27 summit sites reported they were able to use the information gained at the summit to secure and leverage additional grants and funds to support this work; and
  • Nearly all (96 percent) of the survey respondents who are carrying out post-summit work felt the summit strengthened collaboration. Specifically, 93 percent indicated that more organizations were working together around dropout prevention and college readiness issues.

To conduct this research, Duke University provided web-based surveys to all attendees immediately following the summit with questions ranging from the content of the event to their personal thoughts and energy before and after.  Researchers also worked with the local lead convener of the event to complete a survey at the six- and 18-month marks following the summit. Duke also conducted telephone interviews with many local conveners and workgroup leaders.  

The Alliance continues to focus on reducing the high school dropout rate and increasing college readiness among America’s young people with its Grad Nation campaign, the second phase of this work. Launched in March 2010 with the support of President Obama and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Grad Nation is a 10-year campaign to mobilize the energy generated from these summits across the entire nation to inspire people take action to reverse the dropout crisis and help achieve the overall national goal of increasing the graduation rate for all students to 90 percent by 2020.