How RISE Partners are Collaborating to Keep Students On-Track

Data Research and AnalysisGrade 9 SuccessPostsecondary Readiness

Eight years ago, we created the RISE Network in partnership with Connecticut educators in response to systemic inequities perpetuating opportunity gaps for our state’s young people. We set out to work together — across schools and districts — to ensure all students graduate from high school prepared for postsecondary success. 

A new report commissioned by Dalio Education, titled “Connecticut’s Unspoken Crisis,” calls attention to a statewide crisis that motivated us then and continues to drive our work today. To truly internalize this crisis, we must recognize two fundamental truths. First, every young person has tremendous potential and aspirations for their future. Second, the conditions surrounding our young people are failing to help all realize their full potential. Put simply: opportunity in our state is not equally distributed.

This presents costs to us all. If the moral and ethical imperatives are not enough, then we hope the financial impact will compel voters and policymakers to prioritize the needs of every young person.  The key to safeguarding Connecticut’s economy is to ensure young people succeed in high school and beyond.  The report illustrates how we are spending hundreds of millions of dollars each year addressing the impact of disengagement when helping more young people stay on track to fulfill their education and career aspirations would have the opposite impact and would contribute immensely to our state’s economy. Providing the resources necessary to help all students stay on-track in high school would be a modest investment compared to the economic benefits of addressing this crisis.  

To be clear, the true costs for disconnected youth and their families cannot be quantified. For far too many young people, it’s the gradual loss of hope and possibility. It’s the feeling when a young person internalizes they are not cut out for school, or when their goals for higher education feel out of reach, or when a living wage becomes unattainable. When reading a report like this, we can never forget that there are thousands of students with names and stories behind the statistics.  Our collective failure to act is perpetuating multi-generational cycles of poverty and oppression.

The report speaks to widespread needs and challenges across the state, and we think it’s equally important to shine a light on schools that are reversing these trends. 

At RISE, we focus on the key transitions into high school beyond where students face new opportunities and vulnerabilities.  We focus on freshman success because research shows students being on track in ninth grade is the best predictor of whether a student will graduate from high school within four years.  RISE schools have increased Grade 9 on-track achievement by 19 percentage points with the largest gains among historically marginalized subgroups.  And with our focus on postsecondary success, 99% of the Class of 2023 graduated high school with a plan, including 76% planning to pursue higher education.

On-track-rates-2022-23-2

We are encouraged and inspired by the progress RISE partner schools have seen:

  • A 19-point increase represents more than 600 students who are on-track across our core network schools annually compared to our first year of work. 
  • Historically marginalized students, including Black students, Latinx students, multilingual learners, and students with special needs have seen the biggest increases.
  • RISE schools have seen nearly triple the growth in high school graduation rates than the state as a whole since 2014-15, an 8 percentage point increase overall. And the majority of RISE schools now have graduation rates at 90% or more, matching or beating the state average.
  • Nearly every student in our programs in 2023 graduated with a postsecondary plan of enrolling in college, the military, trade programs or transitional programs. And our FAFSA completion rate — often used as a sign of college enrollment plans — is up from 59% to 66% since last year.

We prioritize an upstream approach aimed at preventing students from becoming off-track and disconnected. We do this by committing to a process of continuous learning and improvement.  Together, we study data and learn from student experiences to then inform growth areas and new innovations.  The strategies we pursue to promote on-track achievement are entirely replicable, including user-friendly data tools, summer bridge programs, on-track data teams, on-track student conferences, and the on-track coach position.  Similarly, our programs to promote postsecondary success are equally powerful, including postsecondary planning academies, FAFSA task forces, and summer melt texting campaigns.

This is a moment to embrace the research, learn from bright spots, and come together as a state to ensure all young people have the opportunity to rise.