by Andrew Myers
The Everyone Graduates Center at the Johns Hopkins School of Education arose with the specific intent of developing ways to get all students to high school graduation fully prepared for success in college, career, and civic life. The center’s evidence-based approach examines the root causes and consequences of the nation’s dropout crisis and develops tools and models designed to keep all students on the path to graduation.
“It really comes down to the ABCs—attendance, behavior, and course grades,” says Robert Balfanz, the center’s founding director. “If we can get kids to school, build their social-emotional strengths, reduce disciplinary occurrence, and help them get good grades in challenging courses, nearly all will graduate, and many will be ready for post-secondary success.”
The Everyone Graduates Center’s innovative strategies include an early-warning system to help educators identify the students most likely to drop out and a slate of early-intervention techniques to keep them on track to high school graduation and college- and career-ready.
The center has experienced tremendous growth as its programs’ ideals and strategies have spread from district to district across the country. While much of that growth has come by word of mouth, the program is about to embark on a major new phase, thanks to a recent $13 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The funding will bring together the GRAD Partnership for Student Success, eight highly regarded national institutional and nonprofit organizations, to scale up evidence-based on-track systems and strategies geared toward high school graduation and post-secondary success.
“This is the next logical step for our program as we have spent years studying, developing, and validating our criteria and systems, and we’ve seen them working in schools,” Balfanz says. “Now, with the Gates Foundation’s help, we can scale things to a new level and work together with a remarkable group of partners to do it.”
In addition to the Everyone Graduates Center, the GRAD partners are the American Institutes for Research, BARR Center, Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, National Center for Learning Disabilities, Network for College Success at the University of Chicago, Rural Schools Collaborative, Schott Foundation for Public Education, and Talent Development Secondary.
“We’re honored to be part of the new GRAD Partnership,” said Taylor McCabe-Juhnke, executive director of the Rural Schools Collaborative. “This initiative is of the utmost importance, particularly for historically underrepresented students, and we look forward to connecting rural schools to the national conversation.”
“Together, we’re creating the next generation of high-quality student-success systems, designed for pandemic-impacted times, to graduate all students ready for the demands of the 21st century,” Balfanz says.
The Everyone Graduates Center will serve as managing partner. Building upon the center’s existing research and programs, as well as work done by the University of Chicago, the partners will inspire widespread systematic adoption of high-quality early-warning/on-track systems, which combine research-based, predictive indicators of student success and a multi-tiered response system implemented by teacher teams in participating schools. The aim of the work is to be preventive rather than reactive, to be empathetic rather than stigmatizing, and to move beyond traditional practice in which few supports are offered to students until they get suspended, fail a class, or find themselves in truancy court.
“Most importantly, however, the Everyone Graduates Center means everyone,” Balfanz asserts. “Urban, suburban, rural alike—everyone matters. Our focus is on students, not their circumstances.”