Advancing the High School Graduation Rate in Philadelphia

Posted by Philadelphia Youth Network on June 19, 2017

Graduating from high school is a critical milestone for youth achieving a successful transition to adulthood. Youth without high school diplomas often face few job options, low annual incomes, and poor health outcomes. High dropout rates within a community are related to higher poverty and crime rates, less tax revenue, and more money and resources spent on social services.

In 2006, Unfulfilled Promise: The Dimensions and Characteristics of Philadelphia’s Dropout Crisis, 2000–2005 shed light on how many students drop out of high school in the School District of Philadelphia (SDP) and what factors put students at risk for dropping out. The results were grim: for students entering high school between 1997 and 2001, the on-time graduation rate hovered around 50 percent. Risk factors associated with dropping out included chronic absence, child welfare involvement, and failing grades. After the release of Unfulfilled Promise,
several citywide initiatives (including accelerated high school programs, afternoon and evening classes, re-engagement efforts, and workforce development and occupational skills training) were expanded or created to address the dropout crisis.

In 2014, Project U-Turn commissioned PolicyLab at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and Johns Hopkins University to conduct a follow-up study to examine whether the prevention and intervention initiatives reduced dropout rates by addressing the following questions:
• What were the cohort graduation and dropout rates? What factors related to these rates?
• How did subpopulations vary in graduation rates and risk factors for dropout?
• What were the re-engagement rates for high school dropouts over time? Of the students who dropped out of high school and re-engaged, how many participated in a Project U-Turn re-engagement program?
• How many students eventually enrolled in post-secondary institutions?

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