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:



Elevating Educator Voices: Teachers Share Challenges, Needs in Wake of Pandemic

This summer, we engaged over 300 teachers, principals, and district leaders from across the country through an online survey and small-group interviews. We wanted to explore how familiar they are with student success systems, learn more about the systems districts and schools already have in place and how they are helping or falling short, and discover what supports educators need to enhance their work and improve student outcomes.  Throughout our research, we heard three consistent themes: 

~ A lack of teacher time and resources

~ A desire for more collaboration

~ A need for additional support for the significant number of students impacted by the pandemic

Lack of Time and Resources: Educators spoke of not having enough time, resources, or staff to meet the current needs of students. With the added stress and challenges brought on by the pandemic, new initiatives and interventions often feel like yet another thing on their already impossible to-do lists. 

Often, implementing new initiatives or building upon existing ones in schools can feel overwhelming and unachievable without additional staff. But the talent and expertise already exist within the building. To harness this, schools need support to reorganize and refine the systems of support they have in their schools. 

When reflecting on GRAD Partnership’s definition of student success systems, one middle school counselor commented, “We are already doing all this work in the classroom, all these interventions and the hard work that we are putting in every day. This is a system that’s going to help us streamline it and rethink how we’re doing things rather than completely changing what’s happening in our school to get our students ready for the next level and beyond.”

Collaboration: Teachers and departments often can feel siloed and used to working within their areas of discipline. But educators want to be part of a community, both within and beyond their school.  When given the opportunity to work in teams, teachers are more satisfied and feel more effective (Bos et. al, 2022). Student success systems help schools shift from a culture of isolation to one of collective support and shared responsibility, including bringing community groups into the conversation to help support schools. 

One educator in our group interviews said, “In education, there’s so many roles. You have a teacher, you have paraprofessionals, you have all these people who work with students and see their needs, but they may not know how to or who to talk to about referrals or just accessing additional support.”

Additional support: After the pandemic, there are growing numbers of students who are off track for graduation. But with teachers already feeling stretched thin, there is little appetite for new initiatives that will add to teachers’ responsibilities. 

One teacher in our group interviews noted, “I just keep thinking that education in our post-COVID world, we’ve shown that there’s a lot of cracks in education, and this could be a way to help fill in and build the foundation back maybe even a little bit stronger than it was before by having systems in place and supports for teachers to help individual students.”

Student success systems can help address these concerns by helping schools rethink how they organize, implement, and refine their strategies to support students. The GRAD Partnership also offers an opportunity for schools to connect, share experiences, and learn from peers from other areas of the country. By focusing on actionable data, supportive relationships, and a collective and evidence-based approach, we can work together to improve outcomes for students.   

To learn more, join our webinar with AASA on November 17, 2022, at 3 p.m. Register here

Why Alabama and West Virginia suddenly have amazing high-school graduation rates

By Andrew Van Dam, The Washington Post
Nov. 18, 2022

Between the 2010-2011 school year and 2018-2019, Alabama and West Virginia moved from 40th and 27th in the nation in the rate of students who graduated from high school in four years to first and third, respectively, joining Iowa, 2nd… read the full article here.

GRAD Partnership is Pleased to Announce Its First Spotlight School: Manzano High School

Albuquerque, NM – The GRAD Partnership is pleased to announce its first spotlight school, Manzano High School in Albuquerque, New Mexico, for its positive engagement and student success it had from the implementation of its continuous improvement systems.

During the 2021-22 school year, staff members at Manzano High School earned certification as Early Warning Systems Coordinators from the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins School of Education. It was during the certification process that Manzano High School was identified by Talent Development Secondary as an exemplary site for designing an Early Warning System based on engagement and level of implementation during the project as well as positive impacts on student outcomes.

“Given the work that Manzano has undertaken during their pilot year, we are pleased to name Manzano High School as our first GRAD Partnership Spotlight School,” Patricia Balana, the Managing Director of the GRAD Partnership. During a recent visit to Manzano High School, Balana reflected, “it was an uplifting experience for our team. We were honored to witness the work firsthand and delighted to meet with students, educators, and community groups, all clearly working together and so creatively in pursuit of student success.”

Manzano High School will be a connection point for other GRAD Partnership schools across the nation as they create a national movement that taps into the power of predictive data, personalized support, and evidence-based practices to meet the needs of every student and empower them to graduate ready for the future.

Nine Education Organizations Launch National Effort to Expand “Next-Generation” Early Warning/On-Track Systems

BALTIMORE – In May, nine education organizations announced the launch of the GRAD Partnership for Student Success, a national effort to implement and scale the use of high-quality on-track/early warning systems across middle and high schools. The new partnership comes as schools and districts look to support the millions of students who are off- track for high school graduation and postsecondary success. These numbers are growing as a result of the pandemic, with many states reporting their first decline in high school graduation rates in over a decade and fewer high school graduates enrolling in college—particularly low-income and minority graduates. 

The Partnership represents the culmination of more than a decade of research and efforts to develop and validate early warning/on-track systems. Also known as student success systems, they enable educators to monitor students’ progress using predictive data indicators—such as attendance and course grades—and respond rapidly and effectively when students signal they need additional support. 

“We know we can do more when we work together,” said Angela Jerabek, founder and executive director of the BARR Center. “If we can work collectively as organizations that are all doing this work, we know the impact we can have is so much more than what we could have individually.”

“Schools across the country face the urgent task of identifying when students are in need of support and figuring out the resources, supports, and connections they need to thrive in school,” said Robert Balfanz, research professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Education and director of the Everyone Graduates Center, the managing partner for the effort. “We’re excited to work with schools, districts, and community partners to meet this challenge.”

The Partnership will engage states, districts, schools, and intermediaries across the country to scale next-generation early warning/student success systems. The early focus of the Partnership is to reach districts and schools that were highly impacted by the pandemic and where large numbers of students currently are not graduating high school prepared for postsecondary success. Educators and education leaders who join the Partnership will have access to resources, research, tailored technical assistance, and a community of practice.

I’m excited that this partnership is available to schools and districts because it’s often difficult to access the expertise and resources needed to do this work well,” said Elizabeth Kirby, superintendent of Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District, during the partnership’s launch event“This is a great opportunity to make connections and bring these systems to the next level.”

The last decade saw much progress with on-track, student success work. This next generation of systems will:

~ Broaden the set of indicators used to monitor student progress and success, to include data on students’ sense of school connectedness, social-emotional wellbeing, and postsecondary enrollment and attainment. 

~ Shift the emphasis from high school graduation to college- and career-readiness.

~ Use early warning/on-track data to support continuous school-wide improvement.

~ Work to develop supportive, strength-based mindsets among school personnel.

The pandemic has created greater needs for more kids—more dynamic, more diverse, and more shifting needs,” Balfanz said during the partnership’s launch event. “We know there was a realm of human need and potential that was not necessarily captured by the first set of systems focused solely on preventing high school dropouts.”

Research from the Chicago Consortium of School Research, Johns Hopkins Everyone Graduates Center, and others have shown that schools can identify which students have high odds of not graduating or are on a path to postsecondary success by monitoring specific data points, including grades and attendance. Schools can then step in with additional support, such as tutoring and counseling, or identify where classroom, grade-level, or schoolwide improvements would result in more students graduating ready for college and career. Over the last decade, a growing number of districts, including Chicago Public Schools and Baltimore City Public Schools, have successfully adopted early warning systems as a tool to keep students on track to graduation and postsecondary success.          

The GRAD Partnership, will work hand in glove with the National Partnership for Student Success (NPSS), announced by the Biden administration last week. The NPSS seeks to place an additional 250,000 volunteers and AmeriCorps members serving as tutors, mentors, student success coaches, postsecondary advisors, and integrated student support coordinators in the schools most impacted by the pandemic. Next-generation student success/early warning systems provide schools with the tools to identify which students need what supports when, and where preventive actions are needed. The NPSS then provides schools with the people power needed to provide critical supports at the scale and intensity required. 

Schools, states, districts, and community organizations are invited to learn more and join the Partnership by visiting


The GRAD Partnership for Student Success is a collaborative, national effort to implement and scale the use of high-quality on-track/early warning systems across middle and high schools. The Partnership is a joint effort between nine organizations and institutions: Johns Hopkins Everyone Graduates Center, American Institutes for Research, BARR Center, Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, National Center for Learning Disabilities, Network for College Success at the University of Chicago, Rural Schools Collaborative, Schott Foundation for Public Education, and Talent Development Secondary. Learn more at


GRAD Partnership Rural School Spotlight: Burney Falls, CA

Rural Schools Collaborative
Dec. 13, 2022

As part of the national GRAD Partnership for Student Success, Rural Schools Collaborative is pleased to highlight 20 schools who are implementing student success systems as part of a rural and small school cohort project. This feature comes from Burney Falls, CA, and is supported by RSC’s Northern California Regional Hub partners at North State Together. Read the full article here. 

OPINION: U.S. high schools must take note and take action after dismal NAEP score report

By Robert Balfanz, director of the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins School of Education, and Angela Jerabek, founder and executive director of the BARR Center

Hechinger Report
Oct. 28, 2022

New data released this week from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, known as the “nation’s report card,” should raise the alarm for America’s high schools. While scores declined across the board, eighth grade students showed the most stunning drops — underscoring the urgent task ahead for high schools charged with helping students get back on track.

In both math and reading, scores declined to levels unseen in the last two decades. The drops were particularly sharp in math, where just 26 percent of eighth grade students were deemed “proficient.” Read the full article on the Hechinger Report website.

Manzano Named GRAD Partnership Spotlight School

Oct. 19, 2022

The GRAD Partnership is a collaborative effort of nine organizations, working with districts and schools nationwide to empower them to graduate all students ready for the future. The GRAD PartnershipExternal link is joining with schools and communities to create a national movement that taps into the power of predictive data, personalized support, and evidence-based practices to meet the needs of every student… read the full article here.

Keeping Students on the Path to Graduation and Postsecondary Success

By Melissa Mellor, Vice President, Hatcher Communications
July 2022

The pandemic’s deep impact on students is clear. After more than a decade of progress, high school graduation rates are down in many locales, while course failure, chronic absenteeism, and students’ well-being needs are up. Enter the GRAD Partnership for Student Success, a national effort to help schools, districts, and communities get students back on the path to graduation and postsecondary success…. read the full story on Hatcher’s website.

With So Many Kids Struggling in School, Experts Call for Revamping ‘Early Warning Systems’

By Sarah D. Sparks, Education Week
May 18, 2022

When one student starts to fall behind, act up, and disengage from class, many schools now have early-warning systems in place to signal a problem and intervene. But what happens when half the class—or half the school—throws up similar red flags?… read the full story on Education Week.

GRAD Partnership Aims to Keep Students on Track for Graduation

By Andrew Meyers for The HUB, Johns Hopkins University
February 24, 2022

The Everyone Graduates Center has experienced tremendous growth as its programs’ ideals and strategies have spread from district to district across the country. While much of that growth has come by word of mouth, the program is about to embark on a major new phase, thanks to a recent $13 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The funding will bring together the GRAD Partnership for Student Success, eight highly regarded national institutional and nonprofit organizations, to scale up evidence-based on-track systems and strategies geared toward high school graduation and post-secondary success… read the full story on The HUB.