School teams and team leaders participating in GraduateFIRST receive professional learning, coaching, and resources to support them in diagnosing the causes of dropout, in developing school improvement plans, and in implementing the evidence-based practices identified in the school plans. Participating schools collect fidelity of implementation and outcome data, and the results of this analysis have shown improvements across all program measures. A summary of project activities is included below:
Professional Learning: Professional learning opportunities are critical to the success of GraduateFIRST. School teams receive intensive instruction on the GraduateFIRST framework and processes through face-to-face training sessions and online sessions.
A GraduateFIRST Institute is held each year for team members, team leaders, and principals from each of the participating schools. New team members participate in GraduateFIRST Institute: Fundamentals, which introduces them to the GraduateFIRST framework and processes. Participants learn how the aspects of student engagement impact student outcomes. Academic, behavioral, cognitive, and affective engagement will be addressed. Schools teams that have previously participated in GraduateFIRST will participate in the Best Practices strand, providing them with the opportunity to learn from other GraduateFIRST schools and educators who overcame challenges and barriers to help students with disabilities achieve success. In addition, separate sessions will be offered for elementary, middle, and high school levels.
An online GraduateFIRST Professional Learning Series will feature the presentation of research findings; interviews with GraduateFIRST administrators and educators from the field; and discussions around timely, relevant issues in the field of dropout prevention. These web-based sessions will include topics on improving attendance and behavior, increasing family engagement, and evidence-based practices for improving academic outcomes for students.
Coaching: Regional Collaboration Coaches provide on-going training, coaching and resources to school teams and team leaders to support them in implementing the GraduateFIRST framework and processes. The coaches, which are critical to the success of GraduateFIRST, assist between four to eight school teams with data collection and analysis, provide resources on evidence-based strategies, support the implementation of selected strategies, and work to build the capacity of team leaders through continuous communication and coaching. Collaboration Coaches are assigned to participating schools and they assist the school teams in monitoring the attendance, behavior, and course performance of up to fifty students identified as being “at-risk of dropping out”. At least half of the students being monitored must be students with disabilities. During the 2012 – 2013 school year, GraduateFIRST Collaboration Coaches monitored and supported over 3,300 students across Georgia.
Tools and Resources: GraduateFIRST staff and consultants have developed a variety of tools and resources including implementation manuals, forms, videos and other professional development materials which are available on this website. Resources are organized in the following categories: Conference Presentations, Professional Development, Tools, and Videos.