Youth Transitions

Too Big To Be SeenThe PIC convenes the Youth Transitions Task Force, a broad cross-section of organizations that includes the Boston Public Schools, community organizations, city departments and state agencies. Mayor Thomas M. Menino first convened the group in October of 2004 and charged it with lowering the high school dropout rate. The Youth Transitions Funders Group, a coalition of national foundations, provided financial support as part of national campaign to bring struggling students and dropouts to the center of high school reform. For more information, please contact Kathy Hamilton at or 617-488-1316.

The Task Force has raised the visibility of the dropout crisis by conducting research, making policy recommendations, and piloting innovative changes in practice.

Public Awareness.

The group first fostered consensus among stakeholders about the urgency of the crisis. It conducted multi-faceted research and published Too Big to Be Seen: The Invisible Dropout Crisis in Boston and America. Youth Transitions members actively participated in the research. This report, cited in the Boston Globe, local policy briefs, and grant-making documents, is a primer on the dropout issue in Boston. The report includes quantitative and qualitative research, system analysis, and six recommendations, developed by the Task Force.

Six Recommendations:

  • Refine dropout data collection and deepen the analysis.
  • Develop early intervention for struggling students and outreach for dropouts.
  • Increase the number and variety of alternative education and training opportunities.
  • Create school climates that are welcoming and respectful.
  • Increase coordination among schools, alternative programs and city agencies.
  • Develop revenue strategies.

Impact Research.

During the second year of the project, research identified the substantial social and fiscal costs of the dropout crisis. The Center for Labor Market Studies published three reports documenting the costs to a dropout over a lifetime, as well as the costs to the taxpayers. This report resonated strongly in public forums. For detailed information on quantitative and qualitative research reports, please visist the dropout research section.


The Task Force mobilized 100 people to attend a Boston City Council hearing and more than 300 to attend and testify before a legislative hearing of the Joint Committee on Education. The hearing included the recently filed Dropout Prevention and Recovery Act.

The Boston Youth Service Network (BYSN).

BYSN logoBYSN, a network of community based education and training organization, is a core member of the Youth Transitions Task Force. It has ramped up its referral of students, sharing of data, and advocacy as part of this project.

Boston Public Schools ownership.

Leaders from the Boston Public Schools have demonstrated increasing ownership of the dropout issue, a critical development. The district has taken the lead on two critical studies -- (1) a study of off-track high school students with the Parthenon Group and (2) early indicators of dropping out with Dr. Robert Balfanz of Johns Hopkins University. Superintendent Carol Johnson has declared “graduation for all” a top priority in her new Acceleration Agenda.

State legislation.

Task Force members worked with Massachusetts Senate and House leaders to pass the Dropout Prevention and Recovery Act, which was enacted in August of 2008 (S.2766).  A commission is currently meeting to make recommendations on the ten provisions of the legislation (see related resources on the right side bar to view the Act).

Action research.

Task Force members are conducting “action research” to test system capacity in serving likely or returning dropouts. For example, the PIC's outreach and re-enrollment effort, a new piloting program, has provided valuable information on why students drop out and what challenges they face in the school re-enrollment process.

Moving forward.

With the problem framed in terms of scale and the social and fiscal consequences, the next phase of the work is focused on solutions. The Youth Transitions Task Force is also evolving into an action network, in which members collaborate to improve services to youth. The PIC will work with task force partners to identify local assets and gaps in services in the areas of dropout prevention and recovery. It will also identify effective practices on the national front. The next round of research and public conversations that will support this goal.

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