Every year, Civic Enterprises and Everyone Graduates Center write the Building a Grad Nation report, which analyzes our nation’s progress towards the GradNation campaign goal of a 90 percent graduation rate by 2020.
One component of this report is to determine which states are gaining ground, stagnating, or even falling back. This year, Kentucky caught our attention; not only because of the state’s overall high graduation rate and progress over time, but also because it had the smallest graduation gap between low-income and non-low-income students of any state in the country. We wanted to know what was driving those gains, and if there were practices and innovations being implemented in Kentucky that could benefit other states as they work to improve their own rates.
To answer these questions, we hit the road to Kentucky to meet with with teachers, school administrators, school support staff, funders, policy leaders, and nonprofits. We heard their thoughts on what has driven improvement in the state to this point, and their plans to continue that improvement going forward. We will be releasing a report with our findings from these site visits, as well as our own data analysis of the state, in February 2016.
The Building a Grad Nation report also looks carefully at various student subgroups, such as low-income and special education students, and monitors their progress as compared to the nation as a whole. This year, a student subgroup that was not previously an area of focus for the report came to our attention – homeless students. This population of young people has grown rapidly over the last decade, but our ability to accurately count and provide support to homeless students remains desperately inadequate.
With the recent passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act, schools will be required to collect and report data on homeless students, and to provide more comprehensive training to McKinney coordinators and liaisons (the adults within school districts charged with counting and supporting homeless students). These changes will hopefully translate to more accurate data, and school systems that are more accessible to homeless students. However, to have a big impact on the outcomes for this group of young people, we need to involve a community of stakeholders – teachers, nonprofits, community organizations, policy makers, and many others.
In order to raise awareness and shed light on this issue, Civic Enterprises is working with Hart Research Associates to conduct surveys and interviews with homeless students, as well as McKinney Vento coordinators. Our forthcoming report that combine the voices of homeless students themselves with policy recommendations and action steps that schools, communities, political leaders, and individuals can take to support this vulnerable population, and help them stay in school and, ultimately, on track to graduation.
We are excited for the work ahead in 2016, and the opportunities to continue to rally the nation around our young people to help them find success in school and in life, no matter the obstacles they face.