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Duke University evaluation finds Dropout Prevention Summits had lasting impact

America’s Promise Alliance and the Duke University Center for Child and Family Policy today announced the findings of the final evaluation of the America’s Promise Dropout Prevention Summits. The evaluation revealed the Dropout Prevention Summits not only served as the catalyst for the creation of new programs and collaborative efforts around ending the high school dropout crisis, but strengthened existing work, political and public awareness, and funding at the state, local and school level. Most impressive, this final evaluation highlighted that momentum from the original summits has been sustained with the majority of dropout prevention workgroups established in response to these convenings still intact today, and meeting on a regular basis. Specifically, 77 summit conveners surveyed reported that a collaboration of community agencies is continuing the work from the summit and 84 percent said the momentum generated by the summit remains strong.

“These findings are meaningful because they show that these Summits were much more than meetings, they were truly the start of a movement in this country to end the dropout crisis,” said John Gomperts, president and CEO, America’s Promise Alliance. “What’s been most heartening is to hear how these summits helped catalyze real change in terms of awareness, support and collaboration. Meeting the dropout challenge is going to take the energy and investment of all sectors working together and seeing this momentum gives us great hope.”

Between 2007 and 2010, America’s Promise co-convened and funded a total of 105 Dropout Prevention Summits in all 50 states and in 55 cities. These Summits were known as the Dropout Prevention Campaign and brought more than 33,000 government, business, education, community and faith leaders together with nonprofits, parents and young people to learn more about the dropout crisis 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 in Detroit in April 2008. The first large scale dropout prevention Summit effort of its kind, these convenings are widely credited with helping drive an increase in the level of national and local awareness of the high school dropout crisis.

“It is impressive that modest financial support and strong leadership from America’s Promise and its partners could generate so much activity,” said Kenneth Dodge, founding director, Duke University Center for Child and Family Policy. “Not only did thousands of people participate in the Summits, the follow-through was even stronger and lasted 18 months. It is somehow fitting that General Powell’s organization would be behind the concept of a ‘Summit’ to mobilize activity.”

87 summit sites participated in an 18-month follow-up evaluation:

  • Of these 87 sites, 77 had a workgroup working toward dropout prevention 18 months following the Summit;
  • 72 of the 77 workgroup conveners reported that existing dropout prevention efforts were strengthened as a result of their Summit;
  • 33 of the workgroups were newly created to address dropout prevention as a result of the Summit;
  • 74 workgroup conveners said that more organizations are collaborating around dropout prevention and college readiness efforts as a result of their Summit;
  • Nearly three-quarters of workgroup conveners (56 of 77) said political support for addressing dropout prevention and college readiness issues has increased since their Summit;
  • 48 conveners said their Summit helped secure additional funding support for their efforts;
  • 79 grants were awarded to workgroups following their Summit. Sixteen conveners received grants totaling more than $100,000. The business and government sectors were responsible for the distribution of the majority of these grants funding 24 and 21 post-Summit grants respectively;
  • Even with an influx of new funding post-Summit, a third of all conveners report needing additional financial resources for full project coordination or implementation;
  • 59 of the workgroups engaged in at least one new activity post-Summit, including: a college night event for Hispanic students and families in Yonkers
    • Connecticut introduced and passed legislation increasing the age a student could drop out
    • a new state center and data system to support early intervention efforts and track progress toward graduation goals in Wisconsin
    • the Michigan Department of Education created the Superintendent’s Dropout Challenge program
    • The idea behind the United Way’s multi-million school turnaround initiative, the Greater Detroit Education Venture Fund, was conceived at the Detroit Dropout Prevention Summit;
    • Visions to Practice—a three-day institute for school divisions developed by the Virginia Department of Education post-Summit that provides information, guidance and planning opportunities on successful programs that increase graduation rates

    “Rhode Island’s Dropout Prevention Summit and follow-up work after the Summit provided terrific momentum for the launch of our state’s Early Warning system that has already been piloted and will be scaled up to go state-wide for the 2013-2014 school year,” said Elizabeth Burke Bryant, executive director, Rhode Island KIDS COUNT.

    “Our Summit action plan gave our community the tools and strategies needed to secure additional funding for this work,” said Shawna Davie, dropout prevention coordinator, United Way of the Capital Area (Jackson, MS) “Through the additional post-Summit grants we received we were able to use $1,500 to implement business and youth engagement projects at our targeted high schools.”

    To conduct this research, Duke University provided web-based surveys to post-summit workgroups 18-months following their Summit. Of the 105 Summits, conveners from 87 workgroups provided information about progress. This evaluation highlights the work of 77 Summit sites that indicated they are continuing the work of the Summit. Ten respondents indicated that the workgroup is not currently active. 

    Building on the success of the Dropout Prevention Summits, America’s Promise launched the Grad Nation campaign, the second phase of this work, in March 2010 with the support of President Obama and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Grad Nation is 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.