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United Way Blog

One Empty Desk Is Too Many

In Greenville County, South Carolina one out of every four students does not end up graduating on time. Although students cannot legally drop out until high school, many start to disengage in middle school, creating a pattern of behaviors that eventually leads to dropping out.

Take for example one student, Jason (name changed). Jason started middle school this summer in Greenville. New to the school district, and without a permanent record for his teachers to refer to, they didn’t know why he began to struggle in the first few weeks of school.

Without effective intervention, sixth grade students like Jason who are off-track in one or more key areas (typically known as the “ABCs” -- attendance, behavior and course grades) have a slim 20% chance of graduating on-time. But by identifying students early, a team of educators and community partners can match students with the right interventions and monitor their progress, so they can graduate from high school with a more positive school experience, and a brighter future.

What happened next for Jason is the perfect example of our middle school impact work at play:

  • Once Jason’s teacher alerted others that he was struggling, the school’s early warning and response team evaluated his needs and created customized supports to help him get back on track.
  • The Public Education Partners (PEP) literacy coach determined that he had a second grade reading level.
  • The coach gave Jason’s teachers lesson planning ideas, instructional strategies, and animal books that he loves at his reading level.
  • The teachers also adjusted his text level to help him find success while also maintaining high expectations for his work.
  • School staff and community partners, including a mental health specialist, teachers, guidance, administrators, PEP coaches, and Communities in Schools are working together to meet Jason’s needs with additional support, all part of the early warning and response team at the school.

Jason’s middle school is one of four that are participating in OnTrack Greenville, an initiative supported by United Way of Greenville County and fueled by a Social Innovation Fund grant. With our early warning and response system, OnTrack Greenville is helping middle school students stay on track for high school graduation and future success.

We’re thrilled with how well this initiative is working in Greenville, because it means more students like Jason will have a real shot at a successful future. To learn more about how we’re making this work in other communities, check out our newest report on “Maximizing the Middle: Reflections on United Way’s Middle Grades Success and Transition Challenge.”

Let's Maximize the Middle.

The middle grades are a pivotal time for youth growth. It's time that can make or break the future of a young person. Let's help every student be the best they can be. Join us to learn how it can happen in your own community.

Download the report