Program to Improve Graduation

smiling boy in cap and gown

The goal of the Program to Improve Graduation was to bridge gaps in knowledge and practice for school-linked professionals to act as key ambassadors in advancing health and educational equity to prevent dropout and improve graduation rates.

Grounded in the social-ecological model, the program facilitated the integration of essential public health services in schools and adjoining SBHCs to remove schoolwide barriers to health and learning. Delivered in two phases, the program offered both capacity-building assistance and practice-enhancing technical assistance to designed to deepen participants' understanding of topics including the social determinants of health, high school graduation as a public health priority, adolescent neuroscience and the impact of chronic stress on learning and behavior, and the value of strategic partnerships with students and communities to advance shared goals, and to provide guidance and resources on identifying and responding to the root causes of issues facing students at school and systems levels.

"Having APHA/CSHE's investment lent tremendous credibility to our efforts and ultimately got us into doors that were previously closed, helped us gain new partners and offered us greater opportunities to share and disseminate this work." — school-based health center administrator

By creating a pipeline of school-linked professionals with competencies in public health across the country, CSHE's Program to Improve Graduation offers a model for improving graduation rates in the U.S. with a priority focus on strengthening relationships between staff, students and their community; enhancing organizational capacity to integrate public health into practice; expanding internal and external partnerships; strengthening stakeholder support for advancing shared goals; improving schoolwide policies, practices, and procedures; and improving the impact that program strategies are having on students.

Schools' progress in institutionalizing practice and policy changes that reduce the impact of graduation barriers represents varying degrees of success along a continuum — from paradigm shifts among staff, to visible and palpable changes within the school building, to direct impacts on students inside and outside of the classroom.

"The American Public Health Association's Center for School, Health and Education works to find the cracks and sinkholes in our nation's most challenged schools and provide safety nets, resources and a common voice among educators, school-based health care providers, students, parents and community members to come together and make sure all students graduate on time... When we prioritize educational attainment for all groups, we increase gateways to strengthen America's social and economic well-being."

Integrating Public Health in Schools to Improve Graduation highlights the program's journey to prevent dropout and advance population health and equity with schools across the country. To learn more about the program and final outcomes, check out the executive summary (PDF) and read the full report (PDF).