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The high school graduation rate is a barometer of the health of American society and the skill level of its future workforce (1). However, research shows -- a students' circumstances do not dictate success -- educational experiences do.

Today, one out of every four Michigan students fail to graduate from public high school with his or her freshman class. Students who drop out of school lack the tools to compete in today's global economy and diminish their chances for greater success in the future.

Research shows most students send distress signals years before they drop out of school. In fact, key early warning signs displayed by students nearing or entering transitional school years, such as 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th grades, have proven to be strong dropout predictors. Early warning signs include the A-B-C's: A-Attendance, B-Behavior, and C-Course performance. These have an 80% accuracy rate of predicting risk of dropout and a 90% accuracy rate of predicting graduation rates within four years.


During the summer of 2009, I issued a challenge to all Michigan schools to identify 10-15 students in all elementary, middle and high schools who are nearing or in a transition year with multiple dropout risk factors and provide research-based supports and interventions. As a result, over 1,300 schools including all schools in 170 districts have accepted this Challenge.

A recent study confirms that schools in the Challenge have statistically significant lower dropout rates than those not yet part of the Challenge. In addition, reports from Challenge districts and schools indicate this Challenge has made a difference in thousands of student and educator lives.


While having nearly 1/3 of all schools sign up for the Challenge is impressive, all schools and districts would benefit from accepting this challenge. Therefore, I am issuing a NEW CALL TO JOIN THIS CHALLENGE.

For new Challenge takers, signing up is easy and can be done by completing a short survey at the following link:

IF YOUR BUILDING OR DISTRICT HAS BEEN PART OF THE CHALLENGE IN THE PAST, NO FURTHER ACTION IS NECESSARY AT THIS TIME. You will automatically be re-enrolled. If your school/district is new, you should enroll. If a single building, explore if your district would like to have all of its schools participate.

For more information contact Jill Thompson, Secretary, School Improvement Support Unit, at (517)373-4226 or via email at

Mike Flanagan

State Superintendent


• 2013-2014 Superintendent's Dropout Challenge Video Contest Winners Announcement PDF icon

• Overview of Dropout Challenge PDF icon

• NEW! 2011-12 Superintendent Memo to Districts and Schools on Dropout Challenge PDF icon

• DPTV/PBS Newshour Teacher Town Hall that aired live 11-18-2011

• DPTV/PBS Newshour Segment on Detroit Tackles Dropout Crisis By Engaging Students, Parents with Hari Sreenivasan (highlights Superintendent's Dropout Challenge)

• 2009-10 Press Release - Superintendent Flanagan Announces Dropout Challenge PDF icon

• Change the First 5 Years and You Change Everything

Schools Participating in Challenge


• List of districts and schools committed to Dropout Challenge 2009-11/12. PDF icon

Challenge Information and Resources

• The High Cost of High School Dropouts PDF icon

• National Dropout Prevention Center

• National Dropout Prevent Center For Students With Disabilities

• ARRA Funding Opportunities to High School Improvement PDF icon

State and Local Data

• Graduation and Dropout Data

Building Dropout Calculation Information& Tools

• Middle School Early Warning System CALCULATION Tool

• Nat'l High School Center's Early Warning System CALCULATION Tool

• Dropout Prevention: Heeding Early Warning Signs With Appropriate Interventions PDF icon

• Webinar: How to Use the NHSC Early Warning Tool WMA icon

• America's Promise Grad Nation: Tools

• Off-track Students Starter Kit PDF icon


• National High School Center Drop Out Resources ZIP icon

• What resources, in terms of criteria or tools are available to help states and districts to make informed choices about whether a program, model, or approach to dropout prevention is suited to their particular context? PDF icon

• Heeding Early Warning Signs With Appropriate Interventions - National High School Center at the American Institutes for Research PDF icon

• Students Most at Risk of Dropping Out—and How to Keep Students on the "Graduation Track" PDF icon

• What the Research Says (or Doesn't Say): Ninth-Grade Support Systems - NWREL

• Why Students Drop Out of School: A Review of 25 Years of Research PDF icon

• Effects of various interventions on academic performance of youth with disabilities

• What Your Community Can Do to End Its Drop-out Crisis PDF icon

Best Practices

• IES-Dropout Practice Guide PDF icon

• Dipolmas Now

• IES-Improving Adolescent Literacy: Effective Classroom and Intervention Practices PDF icon

• IES-Assisting Students Struggling with Mathematics: Response to Intervention (RtI) for Elementary and Middle Schools PDF icon

• IES-Structuring Out-of-School Time to Improve Academic Achievement PDF icon

• IES-Reducing Behavior Problems in the Elementary School Classroom PDF icon

• Middle School Math Improvement Toolkit

• Effective Strategies for Increasing Graduation Rates

• Falling Off Track during the Transition to High School: What We Know and What Can Be Done PDF icon

• Solutions for Failing High Schools: Converging Visions and Promising Models PDF icon

• Heeding Early Warning Signs With Appropriate Interventions PDF icon

• New Model Programs Database

Webinars, Videos, and Events

• 2013-2014 Webinar 1: Using Longitudinal Dropout Data 

• 2013-2014 Webinar 2: Adult Advocacy to Prevent Dropout

• 2013-2014 Webinar 3: Introductory Supports to New Schools in the challenge

• 2013-2014 Webinar 4: Using Rigor and Relevance in Preventing Dropout

• 2013-2014 Webinar 5: Understanding Behavioral & Social Skills in Preventing Dropout

• UPCOMING June 17 2013-2014 Webinar 6: Using Personalized Learning in Preventing Dropout

• MDE Dropout Challenge Team Early Warning Sign Podcast

• Leading the Way to a Smooth Ninth Grade Transition

• REL Midwest Archived Webinars

• 12-2-09 School Improvement Conference Dropout Workshop PPT PPT icon

• Webinar: High School Redesign: Emerging Research about Interventions to Support Conversations Around Transitions

• Webinar: Evaluating Teacher Effectiveness: The What, How, and Why of Educator Evaluation

• Webinar: Connecting Research to Practice: Developing Systems of On-Track Indicators and Supports to Increase Graduation Rates

• Lessons of Effective Instruction

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