On a beautiful, end-of-summer day atop Federal Hill on September 20, United Way donors, supporters, staff and a number of news reporters gathered before a group of 25 silhouetted “students” in graduation cap and gown, and two without. The latter represented the two in 25 central Maryland students who won’t graduate from high school.
The event was the official launch of and press conference for On Track 4 Success, an early-warning program for young students who are at risk for dropping out of high school. This highly collaborative program utilizes school-based support teams and United Way staff, including social workers, to help kids in impoverished neighborhoods stay and succeed in school, with the goal of receiving their diplomas.
At the launch event, Franklyn Baker, president and CEO of United Way of Central Maryland, along with Dr. Sonja Santelises, CEO Baltimore City Public Schools, Maree G. Farring Elementary/Middle School Principal Benjamin Crandall and Steve Solomon, Vice President Corporate Relations Exelon Corporation and President of the Exelon Foundation, talked about the need for this program and its early successes.
Dr. Santelises spoke about the importance of student support in high-need neighborhoods. “I think one of the things that universally makes the difference is who are the adults around them to help them leap some of the holes in that net of support. And so, some young people of certain zip codes have a lot of large holes in support, in their safety net, and they tend to fall through. They tend to be the ones that end up being high school dropouts; the ones who later on will not be on track. We know that an overwhelmingly 90% of jobs that are being created require, minimally, a high school diploma and many of those require some form of post-secondary education. So, when we look at that safety net, what On Track 4 Success really does provide is a way of narrowing those holes; of filling those gaps; of saying to a young person, ‘ , ‘We believe in your potential.’”
United Way’s On Track 4 Success program employs a data-driven model that applies the proven predictors of dropping out of school, Attendance, Behavior, and Coursework (or the A B Cs), to help educators identify students who are struggling. Bringing together a school-based team to review the data and share knowledge about the student enables them to connect students, and sometimes their families, with academic coaching, counseling, health resources and more to get them back on a path to success.
On Track 4 Success was piloted in the 4th and 6th grades at South Baltimore’s Maree G. Farring Elementary/Middle School last year. The program saw overwhelming success. Of students who fell off track in attendance, behavior or coursework throughout the year, 46 percent were back on track by the end of the school year. Among students in a On Track 4 Success tutoring group for those struggling with math, 67 percent of those students moved from off track to on track in mathematics by the end of the year.
This year, United Way is fighting for more students, providing the program to more grades at Maree G. Farring, and expanding it to Meade Middle School in Anne Arundel County and Benjamin Franklin High School in South Baltimore. The program is made possible in part through the generous support of Exelon Corporation and McCormick & Company, Inc. “As a funding partner, it’s gratifying to be able to point to meaningful progress and see how the work is having a positive impact on the students,” said Solomon.
Many media outlets sent reporters to the event, including all four network television stations, Baltimore magazine and The Baltimore Times. On Track 4 Success, its impact and expansion were covered extensively the morning of the launch in this Baltimore Sun article.
Learn more about this program on our Education page. You can help us expand upon our success to date and reach even more students in danger of dropping out. Please consider making a gift today to help support this critical initiative. United, we can fight for struggling students in every region we serve.