Support Student Success from Preschool to Adulthood
What Can Policymakers Do?
· Improve early grade level reading. Success in school and later life depends on a positive foundation in the early years of childhood. Children who succeed academically, socially and emotionally have a greater chance of becoming economically productive and engaged citizens. Key elements to improving early grade-level reading, an important indicator of a strong early foundation, include achieving early health and developmental milestones, strong and supportive families, high quality early care and education and smooth transition into effective elementary classrooms.
· Improve middle school teaching and learning. The middle grades are an important but sometimes overlooked segment of the P-20 pipeline. Course failure is the major reason why 9th graders enter the dropout track. The 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) 8th grade assessment found that approximately one-quarter of middle school students lack basic knowledge and skills in reading and math. Additionally, analysis shows that this problem is highly concentrated; with every “drop out factory” high school being fed by one or more low-performing middle schools. Increasingly, states are enhancing efforts to improve the educational experience of students in middle school in order to prepare them for the rigors of high school.
· Support students in the transition to high school. Moving from middle school to high school is a difficult transition point for many students. In fact, m ore students fail 9th grade than any other grade.  While weak academic skills are a driving factor, f actors including social and environmental experiences matter as well.  During the transition to high school, many students become increasingly disengaged and their motivation declines. Evidence suggests that students benefit from both intentional long-term academic planning and guidance from qualified counselors.
· Increase academic standards. In recent years, states have begun to increase high school graduation expectations for all students as the first step to providing students with the necessary skills for success. States are revamping academic standards to reflect the demands of the new economy, and students are rising to the challenge. Research shows that high schools that offer challenging academic courses and fewer general-track, remedial and elective courses have lower dropout rates.
· Improve curriculum relevance. Lack of real-world relevance in their curricula is a top reason why many students underperform and often drop out of high school. However, survey data show that close to 80 percent of high school students expect to earn a college degree, and more students remain engaged when schools provide clear connections to postsecondary and workforce interests. Innovative models for bringing real-world relevance to student learning are expanding rapidly, with promising results. States can continue implementing policies that remove barriers to innovation, encourage student aspirations and equip the next generation of workers with high-relevance skills for the new economy.
· Strengthen teaching and leadership in high schools. States can pursue policies to improve professional development systems and invest in strategies that offer extra support to teachers and principals working in the most challenging schools. Central to many strategies is a robust longitudinal data system that links student-, teacher- and school-level data to inform interventions and hold individuals and institutions accountable for results.
 Balkans, R., & Legters, N. (2004). Locating the Dropout Crisis: Which High Schools Produce the Nation’s Dropouts? Where Are They Located? Who Attends Them? Baltimore, MD: Center for Social Organization of Schools, Johns Hopkins University. Available online.
3] Balfanz, R., & Legters, N. (2004). Locating the Dropout Crisis: Which High Schools Produce the Nation’s Dropouts? Where Are They Located? Who Attends Them? Baltimore, MD: Center for Social Organization of Schools, Johns Hopkins University. Available online.
 John M. Bridgeland, John J. Dilulio Jr., and Karen Burke Morison, The Silent Epidemic: Perspectives of High School Dropouts (Washington, D.C.: Civic Enterprises, 2006). As cited in Princiotta and Reyna, Achieving Graduation for All: A Governors Guide to Dropout Prevention, (Washington, D.C.: National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, 2009). Available online.