Elevating Educator Voices: Getting to the Heart of Student Success Systems

Recently, we’ve been sharing what we learned when we engaged over 300 teachers, principals, and district leaders across the country on what it takes to support middle and high school students. Through small group discussions and an online survey, we wanted to explore what systems districts and schools already have in place to support these students, how they are helping or falling short, and what educators need to enhance their work and improve student outcomes.  

In our previous post, Elevating Educator Voices: Teachers Share Challenges, Needs in Wake of Pandemic, we discussed common challenges facing educators, such as a lack of time and resources and increased student need as a result of the pandemic. We then explored how student success systems can help address those challenges. 

In this post, we explore the aspects of Student Success Systems that most resonated with educators. 

Here’s what they had to say:

They’re evidence-based: Student Success Systems can reduce chronic absenteeism and course failures and improve graduation rates in a wide range of districts – small, medium, large, urban, suburban, rural. These proof points resonated with school and community leaders, who are looking for solutions that translate to tangible student outcomes. And, the evidence base helps create buy-in at all levels – from district and school leaders to teachers, families, and students.    

One school leader noted: “It works, period. And, it has been proven across multiple districts. I can take that, and I can share it with my teachers and principals. You can share that with families and kids. It is just easy.”

They’re a school-wide solution: Relationships and individual supports are so important to student success. But, one teacher can’t do it all alone. Student Success Systems help schools organize their intervention efforts, identify and respond to trends, and implement school-wide solutions. This approach helps foster collaboration and prevents intervention and support falling to just one teacher.

One teacher noted, “I like looking at not just individual student needs, but school-wide programs. There are always trends to pay attention to.” 

Another observed that it was important the interventions were school- and system-wide: “For me, it is that we’re saying that it addresses individual student needs, but also knowing that there’s a schoolwide intervention in every school.”

They emphasize shared adult mindsets: In our survey, educators identified shared adult mindsets that emphasize being preventive not reactive, strengths-based not deficit-based, empathetic not stigmatizing, and committed to educator and student agency as one of the most important elements of a student success system. These mindsets ensure that Student Success Systems aren’t a mechanism for “fixing students”—instead, they’re a way to strategically and thoughtfully provide students with the supports that can help them reach their full potential. 

In our small group interviews, a community advocate said, “Our number one resource is our students. When they’re successful, ultimately, we’re all successful.”

Learn more about how you can participate in the work of the GRAD Partnership and help all students on their pathway to adult success: https://www.gradpartnership.org/how-to-participate/.

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