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Navigating Student Data in the Senior Year: Strategies for Graduation Success and Beyond

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Scrambling to Determine Graduation Eligibility 

As the school year races to the finish line, school personnel are narrowing in on student data to make sure seniors are ready for graduation and beyond. For many districts, this means carefully auditing student data, like attendance rate, credits earned, grade point average, and assessment scores to make sure that each student has met state and district graduation criteria. But with student data in different systems and managed by different people, this can be a tall order. With just a handful of weeks left, the pressure is on to make sure that all the right boxes are checked. Missing just one state graduation requirement, like an attendance rate above 90%, could result in graduation ineligibility as was the case for almost all students in this district. Keeping an eye on key data points, standing by with ready-to-go interventions, and planning for every scenario is vital at this time in the year. 

Managing Senior Students’ Data Throughout the School Year  

Increasing pressures during senior year, like applying to college or finding a job, combined with dwindling motivation, especially in the fourth quarter, can create the perfect storm for data surprises. This can be especially true for students who have had irregular attendance, behavior, and academics in the past. So how can districts shore up their data processes to prevent students from falling through the cracks in the final hour? Look at the guide below which provides strategies to monitor and engage students in each quarter of their senior year. 

How Districts Can Intervene in the Final Weeks 

While student data and best practices should always guide intervention decisions, they are especially important to consider when time is of the essence, to make sure that intervention efforts are hitting the right target. An important and timesaving first step is figuring out which indicator is flagged and why. For instance, a student may be chronically absent because they are missing school to work so that they can help financially support their family, they have unreliable school transportation, or they have school anxiety. Each root cause requires a different intervention approach. Similarly, a student may have poor grades because they are chronically absent, have low self-efficacy in the subject, need more support because of language learner or special education status, or are lacking essential resources at home like internet access.  

Table 1 displays a mutli-tiered system of support (MTSS) targeting the three indicators that research suggests most impact school completion: attendance, behavior, and coursework. Tier 1 activities can be embedded into core programming for the benefit of all students. Tier 2 activities are standardized, small group interventions delivered to students who have not responded well to tier 1 activities and need more support developing skills related to the essential indicators. At tier 3, students who have not responded to tier 2 interventions and for whom academic, social, emotional, and/or behavioral needs persist receive more intense and personalized intervention. Each activity can be implemented in the fourth quarter. 

Alternative Plans for Students Who May Not Graduate on Time 

It is essential to remind seniors who are facing the possibility of not graduating on time that there are alternative paths to achieving their academic goals. While the traditional timeline may not be possible, there are several options worth considering:   

  1. Summer School: Students can attend a summer program to catch up on credits and graduation requirements. 
  1. Credit Recovery Courses: These courses, often available online, can provide students with the chance to make up for failed or incomplete coursework. 
  1. GED (General Educational Development): Students can take the GED test which measures proficiency in course academic areas and serves as a recognized equivalent to a high school diploma. 
  1. Adult Education Programs: Many communities offer adult education programs tailed to individuals looking to complete their high school education. These programs often provide flexible scheduling and personalized support to help learners earn their diplomas at their own pace. 
  1. Dual Enrollment Programs: Offered by local community colleges and technical schools, students can enroll to earn high school credits while also gaining college credits.  
  1. Gap Year with Purpose: Students can take a structured gap year to focus on academic improvement and personal growth. In this time, students can explore their interests by working, enrolling in educational programs, or volunteering in areas of interest. When ready, they can re-enroll with renewed focus and purpose. 

Monitoring Student Data to Maintain Engagement Through Graduation 

It is crucial to monitor student data throughout the entire K-12 journey to identify students who may need more support to ensure their success. By using a variety of support strategies and offering alternative pathways, districts can help every student stay on track to earning an essential credential that will set them up for future success.