I'm Going Back: The Re-Engagement Experiences of Tucson Youth
Leaving school without graduating presents a significant challenge for America’s young people and for society as a whole. One way that communities and school systems are responding is with coordinated efforts to re-engage these students. When successfully deployed, re-engagement efforts play an important role in helping young people thrive.
The Center for Promise sought to understand the barriers and supports to re-engagement for young people in Tucson, Arizona, by speaking directly with students who are in the process of re-engaging with their education. Their insights illustrate the vast challenges that students face as well as the supports that can help put young people back onto positive educational pathways. This study is the first of two focusing on re-engagement in Tucson.
This study is part of a three-year collaboration between America’s Promise Alliance and Pearson through the GradNation State Activation initiative, focused on increasing high school graduation rates by leveraging statewide change as part of the GradNation campaign. Pearson is the sole sponsor of this study and its dissemination.
The Center for Promise conducted individual interviews with 28 young people in Tucson, Arizona, half of whom have been involved with the Steps to Success re-engagement program and half of whom have been involved in other re-engagement efforts. The Center sought to understand:
- Why students disengage from their education
- Why some students re-engage while others do not
- The factors that contribute to or impede re-engagement
- The factors that contribute to persistence through graduation
Individual factors contribute to disengagement
Individual strengths and challenges played a role in these young people’s educational trajectory, and influenced their decision to disengage. Many students describe unmet health needs and experiencing negative messaging from adults in schools.
Out-of-school factors contribute to disengagement
A young person’s capacity to perform well academically can be overwhelmed by their home and family life, peers, neighborhood, and supports or lack of supports available to them outside of the school.
School climate contributes to disengagement
While all youth entered high school hopeful about their futures, many describe perceived disrespect and being negatively stereotyped rather than being treated as individuals with strengths and needs.
School structures contribute to disengagement
Nearly all young people interviewed describe a mismatch between their needs and existing school structures – including class size, attendance policies, and credit accumulation policies – that operated as barriers to persisting in traditional high schools.
Internal drive and caring adults contribute to re-engagement
Both are critical factors in helping young people understand the educational options and supports available to them, while also feeling that they have confidence and support to seek out these options.
- Embed structures within schools to facilitate knowing students well
- Support integrated student supports and individualized student success plans
- End stigma by embracing a district-wide multiple pathways approach
- Offer proactive, data-driven support
- Provide clarity and transparency
- Facilitate the development of strong webs of support
- Be persistent in offering support
- Provide multiple on-ramps, and “tenacity in pursuit”
- Ask young people about their lives
- Create structures for leveraging student voice and provide opportunities for leadership
JOIN THE CONVERSATION
I'm Going Back: The Re-Engagement Experiences of Tucson Youth was authored by Shannon Varga, Max Margolius, Catalina Tang Yan, Anna Skubel, Marissa L. Cole, and Jonathan F. Zaff at the Center for Promise. This research is part of GradNation State Activation, an initiative of the GradNation campaign to raise high school graduation rates to 90 percent. WestEd is one of three grant recipients for this national effort. Pearson is the sole sponsor of this study and its dissemination.
The 5 Promises
The 5 Promises represent conditions children need to achieve adult success. The collective work of the Alliance involves keeping these promises to America’s youth. This article relates to the promises highlighted below: