Dec 11, 2012

America’s Promise Alliance today announced the launch of its first-ever research center, in collaboration with Tufts University's School of Arts and Sciences. The opening of the Center for Promise is a key part of the Grad Nation campaign, a large and growing movement of dedicated individuals, organizations and communities working together to raise the national high school graduation rate to 90 percent by 2020, with no school graduating fewer than 80 percent of its students on time.

The mission of the Center is to develop a deep knowledge and understanding about what is needed to help create the conditions so that all young people in America have the opportunity to succeed in school and life. The Center’s work will add to the academic exploration of these issues and help give communities and individuals the tools and knowledge to effectively work together to support young people.

The Center will be housed within the Institute for Applied Research on Youth Development (IARYD) in Tufts' Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Development and its research will focus on exploring how all children and youth experience the key developmental supports they need to thrive and graduate from high school ready for postsecondary education and work. America’s Promise refers to these supports as the Five Promises: caring adults, safe places, a healthy start, an effective education and opportunities to help others.

"Thinking critically about the solutions to the challenges facing youth and sharing information and data is at the heart of efforts to provide necessary support for young people and increase graduation rates," said John Gomperts, president and CEO, America’s Promise Alliance. "The Center for Promise will strengthen our ability to contribute to this work and dialogue and we’re proud to be able to do this in collaboration with a leading research university like Tufts."

Richard Lerner, Ph.D., one of the nation's foremost experts on positive youth development as well as IARYD director and Bergstrom Chair in Applied Developmental Science, will oversee the Center with Forrest Moore, Ph.D., executive vice president at America’s Promise. Director of the Center will be Jonathan Zaff, Ph.D., a research associate professor in child development at Tufts and the vice president for research and policy at America’s Promise. Additional Center staff will come primarily from Tufts graduate students and post-doctoral researchers.

The Center’s research agenda includes some of the following planned projects:

  • Community Youth Systems: a multi-method, longitudinal study currently in 14 Grad Nation Communities, with plans to grow into as many as 25 communities, that seeks to understand how different facets of a community come together to collaborate and support young people.
  • Disconnected Youth: a longitudinal study that examines the characteristics of high school dropouts who reconnect with educational settings and the facets of those programs that are successful in luring students back and helping them obtain their diploma.
  • Knowledge Center: the Center will provide research based-content for the Knowledge Center, an online platform that will feature information on the most effective research assessed programs around youth for communities and individuals to access.
  • Youth Engagement: examination and synthesis of the best practices and programs throughout the country for engaging youth as agents of change in their communities.
  • Race and Culture: in partnership with key America’s Promise partners, the Center will examine the influence of race and cultural factors on children and youth well-being, especially minorities and impoverished young people, and how they gain access to and experience the Five Promises.

The team from the Center will also coordinate and provide oversight for non-Center-led activities for America’s Promise, including the annual Building a Grad Nation report which measures the nation’s progress in increasing high school graduation rates and decreasing the number of “dropout factory” high schools.

 "The Alliance is addressing some of the greatest challenges that America faces today. How can we ensure that all our children and youth – not just those in advantaged communities – experience the support and strengths they need to thrive academically, socially, civically, and vocationally?" said Richard Lerner. "The mission, values and research agenda of the Alliance and the Center reinforce one another. Together, we will have arguably the strongest capacity in the nation for developing a youth engagement strategy that will combine research and action."

Noted Dean of Tufts Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Lynne Pepall, Ph.D., "The collaboration with America's Promise is a terrific strategic fit. One of Tufts' values since its founding has been making a difference in the world in a concrete way by applying the knowledge we create. The Center also opens up exciting opportunities for our graduate students and post-doctoral team to work with colleagues across the country who are on the leading edge of youth development research and policy development."

Each year, more than one million students drop out of high school. The 2012 Building a Grad Nation report found the national high school graduation rate increased by 3.5 percentage points over the last decade to 75.5 percent. Only one state, Wisconsin, has met the Grad Nation goal with a graduation rate above 90 percent. If each state had a graduation rate of 90 percent, 580,000 additional students would have graduated in the class of 2011, increasing the nation’s GDP by $6.6 billion and generating $1.8 billion in additional revenue as a result of increased economic activity.