College & Workforce Readiness

‘Academy’ Model Boosts High School Grad Rate for At-Risk Students, Study Says

By Catherine Gewertz — August 16, 2017 2 min read
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High school students with the biggest dropout risks graduate at significantly higher rates than their better-situated peers if they attend—and complete—programs in a network of “academy” model schools.

A study of schools in the NAF—formerly known as the National Academy Foundation—network examined the trajectories of students who are likely to drop out or fail. It found that if students stick with a NAF program throughout high school, they graduate at a rate that’s 10 percentage points higher than that of their peers at other schools: 72.7 percent, compared to 62.5 percent. The researchers categorized students as at-risk of dropping out if their attendance, credit-accumulation, and grades in English and math are poor.

The NAF model blends an academic curriculum with career-themed instruction and work-based learning. Its 675 schools currently serve more than 96,000 students, primarily in high-minority, low-income neighborhoods. Researchers from ICF, a Virginia-based research group, studied more than 600,000 students in six states: NAF students, and demographically similar non-NAF students in those same districts, as they progressed from freshman year in 2011 through graduation in 2015.

The effect was cut in half for at-risk students who attended a NAF school for only some of their high school years. Those students graduated at a rate that was 5 points higher than those of students at other schools.

That dynamic held true for students who aren’t at high risk of dropping out, too. The graduation rate of students who attended NAF schools for at least some of their high school years was 3 percentage points higher than for students at other schools. It was 6 points higher if NAF students attended those programs for all four years of high school.

“Overall, these findings suggest that NAF academies in the 10 school districts in this study have been successful in improving the graduation rate of their students compared to their peers,” the study concludes. “In particular, NAF academies have been successful in targeting and supporting at‐risk student populations and providing a pathway for students to be successful.”

The entire study is below.

NAFs Cohort Graduation Rates From 2011 to 2015 by cgewertz on Scribd


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A version of this news article first appeared in the High School & Beyond blog.


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