City education officials on Monday announced a new campaign to train mentors who already work with students in the best way to guide them to and through college.
The Graduation Coaches Campaign, touted at City Hall by Mayor Nutter, School Superintendent Arlene Ackerman, and other dignitaries, will include training of mentors by nonprofits and a website with tips on how best to work with students.
"What we're saying is if you're in the life of a child, and you want that child to be successful, come get trained . . . and we'll give you the playbook," said Lori Shorr, Nutter's chief education adviser.
Shorr said the office hopes as many as 8,000 coaches will review the website in the first year and as many as 5,000 will opt for training.
Shorr explained that the training would cover everything from how best to guide students in the college application process to how to help them choose career paths, set goals, and solve problems. Information will include a timeline for keeping students on track educationally as well as college-preparation resources.
The new initiative comes as the Nutter administration tries to develop ways to boost the city's college-degree attainment rate and lower the dropout rate.
The challenge is steep.
Among 12,230 first-time ninth graders in the Philadelphia School District in 1999-2000, only about 10 percent, or 1,258, had graduated from college by summer 2009, Shorr said. They had attained a two- or four-year degree.
Of that same group, 58 percent - 7,069 - had graduated from high school within six years. Of those, 24 percent, or 2,982 students, had entered college within the first year after high school.
"We're losing more kids once they get to college," Shorr said.
About 200 people attended the event, including representatives of organizations that helped with the campaign launch, among them United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania and Big Brothers Big Sisters. Six community organizations will serve as hubs for the campaign: Police Officer Lauretha Vaird's Boys and Girls Club, Congreso de Latinos Unidos, CORA Services Inc., Diversified Community Services, Foundations Inc.'s Philadelphia Center for Arts and Technology, and Universal Companies.
The website for the campaign is www.phillygradcoach.org