As a Reengagement Center, one of the primary goals of the D2 Center is to do outreach to students who have withdrawn from school but are eligible to reenroll. This effort complements our work of supporting students who are in the process of disengaging from school or are off track to graduate on time. Since the fall of 2016, the Omaha Public Schools (OPS) / D2 Center Services Agreement allows the D2 Center to work in partnership with the district to reengage students. The D2 Center is provided “dropout lists” and basic student information for this task.
Since that time, the D2 Center has contacted or attempted contact with hundreds of youth through phone calls to students and relatives, text messages, emails, home visits, Facebook messages, and letters. Disenrolled students are assigned to D2 Center Youth Academic Navigators and Career Navigators, who then begin their efforts at reengagement with a goal of reenrollment in school and progressing toward a high school diploma. Nearly all students who reenroll choose to attend one of the OPS Multiple Pathways programs (Independent Studies Program, Accelere, Blackburn Alternative, Adult High School, MCC Gateway to College, or the UNO/OPS Middle College Program). These programs are staffed with caring and supportive professionals, and they provide on-ramps for students to return throughout the year.
During the pilot year of dropout reengagement with OPS in 2016-17, the D2 Center contacted 124 students, who were gradually added through the school year as students left school. During the first full year of the reengagement project (2017-18), the D2 Center contacted 242 students and by June 2018, 15 of these students had graduated. A check of these 242 students in June 2019 revealed that an additional 13 or a total of 28 students had graduated. These numbers are a reminder that reengagement efforts have long-term positive effects not only in numbers of students graduating but, of course, in beneficial impacts on these students’ future lives.
All school districts have a goal to graduate as many students as possible in four years. However, the Nebraska Department of Education also tracks 5-, 6-, and 7-year graduation rates for school districts. For example, the OPS Class of 2015 had a 4-year graduation rate of 78.24%. Three years later this same class had achieved a graduation rate of 85.16%! Going back to the OPS Class of 2011 when the 7-year graduation rate was 80.49%, the 7-year rate has risen by nearly 5 percentage points in the last 5 years.
The D2 Center is committed to supporting youth to graduate on time or by age 21. For some youth—they have been called forgotten youth, dropouts, those falling between the cracks—the path to a brighter future has been a journey with unexpected twists, sharp turns, and roadblocks. Over the next several months we want to share some real stories of reengaged youth who overcame these obstacles. Stay tuned!