Getting More Young People to the Finish Line: Colorado’s Reengagement Network

The national high school graduation rate recently hit 81 percent, the highest rate in history. Yet, graduation numbers in many cities across the country continue to hover below the national average. These cities are home to large numbers of young people who have not finished high school, and lack a clear pathway to do so.

do-mapThe map above displays the number of students that have dropped out in Colorado by school district. (Colorado Youth for Change)

In response, a growing number of cities and states have put specific strategies in place to reengage students who have not finished school. For example, reengagement efforts are underway across the state of Colorado. This past spring, the state established the Colorado Reengagement Network (CRN) to strengthen and expand reengagement efforts in Colorado.

The CRN is the nation’s first mutual support network, and streamlines the coordination of regional and statewide student reengagement efforts to better serve students throughout Colorado. It serves as a model for other states. The network is supported by the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) and spearheaded by Colorado Youth for a Change (CYC).

Through CRN, Colorado Youth for a Change has provided a platform for different groups working towards the same cause – expanding opportunities for youth – to work with and learn from one another. Their mission is simple: help organizations grow from the lessons learned by other organizations without having to experience those lessons themselves. The collaborative environment promoted by the network will increase the capacity and improve the quality of reengagement efforts across the state.

The CRN provides an opportunity for school districts, especially those located in in the Denver Metro area, to benefit from best practice activities happening in peer districts. This culture of sharing, however, has not yet reached many rural areas in Colorado. Expanding the reach and scope of the current CRN presents an opportunity to strengthen the work currently being done while creating a culture of sharing across the state, and ultimately increasing the high school graduation rate.

The Colorado Reengagement Network recognizes that there are many different model reengagement centers across the state with the same goal — improving student outcomes. CRN will connect individuals and organizations addressing the same issues in different cities at different levels to ideas and experiences about dropout prevention and reengagement by:

  • Sharing resources such as the Reengagement Guide published by the Department of Education with members.
  • Conducting outreach for events and webinars focused on reengagement.
  • Hosting a convening for members to come together this fall.
  • Advocating for and publicizing reengagement efforts across the state.

The Colorado Reengagement Network will host a series of networking conference calls leading up to October Count. The calls will provide an open forum for district and school administrators, teachers, and community organizers to share reengagement strategies.

NLC serves as the hub of the Reengagement Network, a national network whose members operate reengagement centers and programs in cities and states across the country.

Zachia headshot
About the Author:
Zachia Nazarzai is the Reengagement Fellow with the NLC Institute for Youth, Education, and Families. She is a graduate student at the Heinz School of Public Policy and Management at Carnegie Mellon University. Contact Zachia at nazarzai@nlc.org.