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St. Paul GradNation Community

In 2014, a coalition of representatives from Saint Paul’s governmental bodies, nonprofit organizations, and school district enlisted as a GradNation Community, dedicated to increasing the city’s graduation rate to 90 percent by 2020.  The St. Paul Children’s Collaborative facilitates St. Paul’s activity as a GradNation Community.  The coalition is a unique community partnership whose board includes two County Commissioners, a city council member, the Mayor’s Education Director, the COO for the Saint Paul School District, School Board members, the Head Start Director and community representatives.

The St. Paul GradNation Community utilizes collective impact to bring together cross-systems stakeholders to develop innovative solutions to the city’s graduation challenge.  They collect and analyze St. Paul data in order to understand the unique challenges their community faces.  The coalition pursues and implements research, strategies, and evidence-based practices recommended by national partners including the National League of Cities, America’s Promise Alliance, Attendance Works, and Strive.

Implemented in September 2014, Project Return is an outgrowth of the St. Paul GradNation Community work. The initiative, a joint project between St. Paul Public Schools and the Ramsey County Attorney’s office, identifies and locates students who have missed 15 consecutive days of school and have subsequently been dropped from enrollment.  The Project Return coordinator works to re-enroll these students into appropriate educational environments, reengages them in learning and ensures sustained support. This type of intensive support is critical for success, as youth can often face serious and significant barriers to regular school attendance including homelessness, lack of transportation, mental health issues, as well as family issues such as unemployment or domestic violence.  Last year, through creative methods of contact and outreach such as Facebook, home visits, visiting known student hangouts like light rail stops and fast food joints, Project Return was able to reengage 91 eligible students re-enrolled 41 into school.  Through programs like Project Success, St. Paul is doing their part to support youth and improve students’ chance for success.

Another innovative program in the community is the Attendance Matters campaign.  An effort between St. Paul Public Schools, the City of St. Paul, the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office, and the St. Paul Children’s Collaborative pushes for improvements in student attendance.  In recognition of the impact of attendance on the probability of graduation, the campaign is an effort to educate students and families about the importance of regular attendance — and how even a small number of absences can impact a student’s learning. Posters, flyers and information for parents emphasize the connection between attendance and positive academic outcomes.  The Saint Paul Public Schools hosts an “Attendance Matters Month” every year and this year is encouraging classes to compete for most improved attendance.

Attendance matters graphic

Currently, the GradNation group is developing strategies for student re-engagement and re-enrollment into school through mapping of community resources and policy, and increasing public outreach and awareness.  The work rallies community-wide action to ensure resources are accessible to students in order to bring them back to school and to keep them on track towards post-secondary success.

For more information, please contact Christa Anders, facilitator of the GradNation Community in St. Paul, at christa@advance-consulting.com.

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