While much recent attention has been paid to the country's high schools with the largest proportion of students who are failing academically or dropping out of school, the authors note that it is important to identify and support the students most in need of support before they even reach high school. To assist in those efforts, they developed this guide to help communities understand which elementary and middle schools "feed," or send, students to their lowest performing schools.
The authors suggest working with community members to first identify the lowest performing high schools in the community and then identifying the middle and elementary schools that send students to those schools. They recommend starting with the lowest performing high schools, rather than trying to create a map for every high school, because this will make the process more manageable and also help your community to identify and provide support to the students at greatest risk of poor academic performance or dropping out of school altogether.
The guide provides assistance in:
- Understanding your education landscape - This includes identifying the people and organizations that work in or with the school system. These stakeholders can include school principals and the superintendents. The guide also provides a list of data sources that your community can use to obtain key information about the education landscape in your community.
- Identifying Feeder School Patterns in Your Community - In addition to providing tips and examples, this section offers a short checklist that your local United Way and community can use to determine your readiness to identify local school feeder patterns.
- Using Feeder Patterns for Greater Impact - After your community has identified your local feeder patterns, you can use this part of the guide to help start thinking about how to use the data you've gained to impact student achievement. One option is to focus on what Diplomas Now, a collaboration of organizations that has developed an early warning system, calls the ABC's: Attendance, Behavior, and Course Passing and grades. This data can be used to develop a tiered approach to intervention at the school level that includes a mix of school-wide efforts and more targeted support, such as case management, for the students who are most in need. This section includes an example of how a local United Way in Phoenix piloted an early warning system.
- Implications for Public Policy - The guide concludes with some examples of the types of state and local policies that might be able to support your community's work to improve academic achievement.