Middle School Students at Risk: Improving Interventions with Data

Emerging Leader Fellow: Stefany Tobel, 2010-2011

In 2005, researchers from the Philadelphia Education Fund (Ed Fund) and Johns Hopkins University conducted an analysis of 13,000 sixth graders and discovered that students exhibiting one or more of certain risk factors have only a 10-20% chance of graduating high school.  These risk factors include:  1) students who attend school less than 80% of the time; 2) receive a poor final behavior mark; or 3) earn a failing grade in math or literacy.  Between 1,000 and 2,000 sixth graders in Philadelphia have one or more of these risk factors.  In response to these findings the Ed Fund created Diplomas Now, a comprehensive dropout prevention/intervention model for middle school students.  Over the past year the program has been implemented in four Philadelphia middle schools and preliminary results are promising.

Stefany Tobel developed a method for analyzing data on student performance related to the Diplomas Now risk factors and shared these information with schools.  The Ed Fund has access to the Philadelphia School District’s data collection system which included attendance and performance indicators.  Stefany used these indicators, as well as other data generated by the Ed Fund, to identify students displaying one or more of the risk factors.  She conducted training for school personnel on how to interpret data and assisted teachers and administrators to develop interventions based on individual student needs.  Stefany documented her work and refined the Diplomas Now program model for how school personnel use student data.