Leveraging Community Collaboration for Back-to-School Success


As students around the DMV prepare to start another school year, Raise DC is facilitating two collaborations that strengthen the back-to-school experience and ensure students begin the year on the right foot.

Raise DC, an independent education partnership incubated at the Greater Washington Community Foundation, convenes partners throughout the District of Columbia to improve outcomes for children from birth through age 24 in five goal areas:

  • kindergarten readiness

  • high school graduation

  • reconnection to school and/or work for those who have dropped out

  • postsecondary enrollment and completion

  • preparedness for a sustainable career

Using data to guide its citywide work, Raise DC brings together schools, government agencies, nonprofits, philanthropic organizations, and the business community to collectively position students for success through their entire academic journeys and into the workforce. Among Raise DC’s current efforts is a focus on two key academic transition points – high school and postsecondary education.

Bridge to High School Data Exchange and Kid Talk

Data Exchange

DC’s school choice model allows middle school students the opportunity to choose among dozens of high school options throughout the District. However, there was previously no guarantee that important information about the student – including course grades, standardized test scores, and attendance data – would reliably accompany him or her to the chosen high school.

Why focus on the transition to 9th grade? According to a 2014 comprehensive study of DC high school students, 26% of the variation of a student’s chances of graduating high school could be explained by factors in 8th grade (which the Bridge to High School Data Exchange now tracks). The study also found that roughly half of first-time 9th graders were already off track to graduate by the end of their freshman year.

Raise DC’s 9th Grade Counts Network – comprised of school leaders, government partners, and community-based organizations – partnered with the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) to create the Bridge to High School Data Exchange, a coordinated way for DC public middle and high schools to consistently share data on students during the 8th-to-9th grade transition. Through the Data Exchange, participating middle schools pass along key data most predictive of high school successes on exiting 8th graders:

Data Exchanged in Bridge to High School
  • Attendance
  • Demographic information
  • Special Education (primary disability and level) and English Language Learner (ELL) status
  • “At-risk” status (one or more of: homeless, in foster care, qualifies for TANF/SNAP, or student who is one year older or more than expected age for grade in which he/she is enrolled)
  • Free and Reduced Lunch status
  • Standardized test scores (such as PARCC)
  • 8th grade math and English grades and course names
  • Optional anecdotal information about students’ strengths

During the next school year, high schools share back freshman data with the “sending” middle schools, allowing middle schools to better understand how their alumni are faring and using these insights to improve the 8th grade experience.

Now in its third year, 95% of eligible DC Public Schools and public charter schools are participating in the Bridge to High School Data Exchange, representing more than 4,000 first-time 9th graders.

Kid Talk

In addition to the Data Exchange, Raise DC and OSSE host an annual Kid Talk as an opportunity for middle and high school staff to partner in person and use this data for action. The gathering offers counselors, assistant principals, and data managers the chance to discuss strategies to best support students transitioning from 8th grade through their freshman year.

This year’s Kid Talk saw participation from 26 DC Public School and public charter school campuses, which doubled 2017’s participation.

Feedback from Kid Talk attendees highlighted the importance of making person-to-person contact with counterparts in other schools, gaining insight not explained by quantitative data to support programmatic planning, and providing high school staff an advantage in building meaningful connections with incoming freshman in the early weeks of school. 

Combating Summer Melt through Texting

Local data revealed that approximately 25% of DC public high school graduates who are admitted to college do not ultimately enroll or attend – a challenge commonly called “summer melt.” Raise DC is supporting two partners – DC College Access Program (DC-CAP) and American University’s Center for Postsecondary Readiness and Success – in reducing this rate through a tool in nearly every student’s pocket: their cell phone.

The partners launched a texting platform in May to reach incoming college freshmen and sophomores with text messages that provide reminders about a number of topics.

Themes for Text Reminders
  • Enrollment deadlines
  • Financial aid
  • Housing
  • Payments
  • Orientation
  • Class registration and scheduling
  • Housing
  • Connecting with an advisor
  • Choosing a major

American University hired graduate student employees to provide timely responses to recipients’ follow-up questions. The weekly text messages will be sent through mid-September and have reached more than 3,000 DC youth. More than 75,000 individual text messages have already been sent. After its completion, Raise DC will use an analysis of the summer melt campaign’s effectiveness to inform its postsecondary strategies in 2019.

Get Involved

While back-to-school time is an important annual milestone, Raise DC works year-round with its more than 250 local and national partners to ensure the District’s children and youth have opportunities to succeed. To learn more about the organization and to join the community-wide movement to achieve better outcomes for our students, visit raisedc.org.

You can also join The Community Foundation and Raise DC for a breakfast series on local education data. On September 5, we'll review 9th grade and high school graduation data and discuss work underway to support youth transitioning from middle to high school, as well as those who are off track to graduate. Find out more and RSVP here.

Raise DC was formed in 2012 in DC’s Office of the Deputy Mayor for Education after stakeholders throughout the District – convened by The Community Foundation – called for a collective impact strategy to foster coordination among DC’s sectors. In later 2013, Raise DC was spun out of government and incubated by The Community Foundation, which now provides shared office space, back office support and additional resources. We are proud to partner and support Raise DC in its efforts to collectively improve educational outcomes for DC’s young people.