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The Notebook’s annual dropout issue explores what leads to academic success

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

After years of steady increases, the School District’s graduation rate has hit a plateau. Though officials have no explanation for why there has been a leveling off, new leadership in the District and Mayor Kenney’s administration continue to create strategies to help more students earn a diploma.

In the Notebook’s April-May edition on the dropout crisis in Philadelphia, we take a look at what leads to academic success for students. In the edition, now available, our data spread is filled with charts that illustrate the overall graduation rate, but also college enrollment rates for students in every District and charter high school. The data spread also provides four-year graduation rates for male and female students, and student attendance numbers by grade.

Over cover story, “A matter of degrees” discusses the findings of the report From Diplomas to Degrees by Paul Harrington and Neeta Fogg of the Center for Labor Markets and Policy at Drexel University. The report indicates that though the number of Philadelphia high school students who graduate and enroll in college is rising, only one in five earns a degree. This article explores the study’s results, which identify the factors and characteristics that are more likely to lead students to college success.

Other stories in our theme package include:

Reconnecting to the classroom: Christina Grant, assistant superintendent of the District’s Opportunity Network, talks about a re-branding of the office that is helping students get back on track to graduation through alternative and accelerated schools. Students share their stories.

Otis Hackney: The man at the heart of the city’s strategy: The mayor’s chief education officer, Otis Hackney, talks about his work and what it takes to improve graduation rates.

A bridge to college: Students in a bridging pilot program at Community College of Philadelphia talk about their academic struggles in high school and the path forward to earning a degree.

Course correction: We look at how schools like Vare-Washington Elementary are using the findings of the Early Warning Indicators report to flag problems among students and put them back on track for graduation.

And, just in time for summer planning, the print edition also includes a three-page museum guide that lists museums and cultural venues throughout the area and some activities they offer.

We will also have several online features to be published next week.

Copies of the Notebook are available at every District school and branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia. You can also read it online.