This story has been updated.
Nearly one in 10 District residents aged 16 to 24 was not working and not in school between 2010 and 2012, and about 14 percent of residents in that age group are not in school and don’t have a high school diploma or a GED, according to a new report from Raise DC, a coalition of public, private and nonprofit groups.
The city calls such people “disconnected youth,” and officials are trying to find them and help them re-enroll in school or job training.
Raise DC was formed in 2012 with the goal of developing solutions to improve opportunities for District residents from birth through age 24. Linking “disconnected” youth back to school or job training is one of five focus areas for the group, along with kindergarten readiness, high school graduation, college completion and full-time employment.
The organization issued a baseline report card in 2013, hoping to focus the city’s attention on the problem of disconnected youth and to spur cooperation among organizations that could help. Wednesday’s report is the first update to the original data.
“The whole purpose of the partnership is getting beyond using data to admire the problem,” said Laurie Wingate, executive director of Raise DC. “We are focused on the actions that follow.”
For example, a network of community groups, government agencies, philanthropies and schools helped support the opening of a “re-engagement center” last year, which employs case managers that help young people get back into school or job training programs and supports them over time as they encounter challenges, such as with securing child care or transportation.
The new center came under scrutiny during oversight hearings last year before the D.C. Council for making a slow start in its effort to help the city’s young people. But Raise DC reported that in its first nine months, the center connected with more than 300 dropouts and helped more than half of them re-enroll in school or a GED program, including six who already have graduated.
The report also shows some progress more broadly in the number of dropouts who re-enrolled in school in the 2012-2013 school year, the most recent citywide snapshot available, with 1,304 students who re-enrolled in a public school, up 15 percent from the previous year. The report does not include any information as to what might have caused the upward trend. The report also showed some progress in other areas, including reading and math proficiency rates, as well as the portion of ninth graders who were promoted to 10th grade.
In other areas, progress has stalled. Most notably, the four-year graduation rate did not budge between 2012 and 2014, remaining at 61 percent, compared to 81 percent nationally. Raise DC released a more detailed report last year looking at early risk factors that can derail would-be graduates. A group of school leaders from public and charter middle schools and high schools are working to find ways to share information and make the transition from eighth grade to ninth grade, a critical transition point, smoother for students, the report said.
Raise DC officials say the report card will be updated continually to reflect the most recent information available from a variety of sources. Many of the baseline numbers have been changed in the updated report using cleaner or more accurate data sets. In some categories, key data points are still missing. The city does not have a common way to measure how prepared children are for kindergarten, for example.
Some states have instituted kindergarten readiness assessments to see how children are faring at the official starting line of school, but despite its hefty investments in preschool, the District has no common measure. Wingate said a group of schools have piloted a survey for pre-Kindergarten students that could be rolled out in 2016.