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Wednesday, December 13th, 2017

The Successful Students’ Partnership (SSP) is a statewide dropout prevention initiative authorized by Pennsylvania Act 49 of 1987. The program, administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, grew out of a concern over the significant amount of Pennsylvania youth who leave school every year without a high school diploma. The intent of the initiative is to provide funds to school districts with high numbers of dropouts (those with a drop out rate which is greater than the state average) to develop and design local resources and strategies to meet their unique needs. The initiative is a statewide opportunity for planning effective strategies to address dropout prevention and offers each grantee an opportunity to use resources; research, assessment and tools to develop further the goals, purpose and activities for dropout prevention and to improve outcomes targeting truancy prevention and academic success.

Throughout the history of this initiative, SSP grantees have observed success through program implementation strategies that promote school-community partnerships and support and enhance student services. Respective programs continue to fall into the domains of programs that offer student services, result in systemic change, and/or rely on community collaboration. The overlap of these three categories is evident in the most successful SSP initiatives, combining features of community collaboration and/or systemic change while delivering services to students. Prior successes with the Successful Students’ Partnership program indicate seven essential elements to form a program of comprehensive, accessible, prevention-oriented and collaborative services:

  1. Early identification of students at risk of leaving school before graduation

  2. Academic support and effective instruction

  3. Community service and service learning

  4. Family involvement

  5. Staff development

  6. Business-education partnerships

  7. Collaboration with other programs

In Pennsylvania, Act 49 of 1987 requires the Secretary of Education to provide the General Assembly with an annual report on public school dropouts*. According to the ‘Public Secondary School Dropouts in Pennsylvania’ report, published in April 2004, a total of 18,560 students dropped out in the 2002-03 school year. Total secondary enrollments during the same year equaled 863,771. This represents a dropout rate of 2.1 for that school year. The Pennsylvania Department of Education has collected the same dropout data elements since the 1986-87 school year. This data collection also supports the U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) process of developing a national database of public school dropout rates. With the passage of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation, beginning with the 2001-02 dropout data, PDE collected four additional data elements: economically disadvantaged, migrant, English language learner (ELL) and special education. T he annual or "event" method of calculating drop out rates, used by Pennsylvania and NCES, measures the proportion of students enrolled who drop out during a single school year. An annual rate is important because it reveals how many students are leaving school each year and how each year's rate compares with previous ones.

Throughout the past decade, secondary enrollments in Pennsylvania increased annually and are forecasted to continue this trend into the immediate future. The number of dropouts has fluctuated over the years. Starting in 1992-93, the dropout rate has ranged from a high of 2.7% in 1994-95 and 1995-96 to a low of 2.1% in 2002-03. These rates are all below the high of 3.4% in 1988-89.

A report on dropouts in Pennsylvania is available on the Pennsylvania Department of Education's web site by clicking here.