A citywide campaign to understand, focus public attention on and, most importantly, resolve Philadelphia's dropout crisis through the use of a collective impact strategy.

The project's launch in 2006 coincided with the release of Unfulfilled Promise: The Dimensions and Characteristics of Philadelphia's Dropout Crisis, a groundbreaking study that documented the dimensions and scope of Philadelphia's dropout crisis and emphasized that its resolution would require actions on many fronts. Since its inception, Project U-Turn has helped more than 9,800 youth reconnect to education and/or employment pathways, leveraged and/or realigned $230M in public and private funding to support dropout prevention and re-engagement services, and has continued to commission studies to assess the needs and realities of Philadelphia's most vulnerable youth and inform program-based interventions and education policy decisions.

Project U-Turn is led by a cross-sector collaborative with representation from the School District of Philadelphia (SDP), the Mayor's Office of Education (MOE), the city's Department of Human Services (DHS), family court, local foundations, and youth advocacy groups, as well as parents and young people. The Philadelphia Youth Network (PYN) is the backbone organization for the effort.

Program Options

These programs were expanded or established by Project U-Turn collaborative members since the campaign's inception in 2006.

MPG Programs

Description Target Population Partners
The Accelerated High Schools are small high school programs where students can accumulate credits at an accelerated pace and work towards earning a diploma in less than three years. These programs offer teacher- and computer-based instruction. Off-track and out-of-school youth between the ages of 15-21 who are two or more years behind in school with fewer than half of the credits required for graduation accumulated. Operated by providers contracted by SDP.
Description Target Population Partners
Located on the campus of the Community College of Philadelphia, Gateway to College is a dual enrollment program that allows students to simultaneously earn their high school diploma and college credits. Youth ages 16-21 with 21 or fewer high school credits. Eligible students must demonstrate a reading ability at an 8th-grade level or higher and complete requirements for high school graduation before or during the year of their 22nd birthday. Operated by the Community College of Philadelphia through a contractual agreement with SDP.
Description Target Population Partners
Formerly known as "Twilight Schools," the Educational Options Program allows students and adults to continue earning credits towards a high school diploma through afternoon and evening classes, which take place at select SDP high schools. Youth over 17 years of age with at least eight high school credits, but who are not currently enrolled in a regular day school. Operated by SDP.
Description Target Population Partners
GED to College provides a pathway for out-of-school youth to earn a GED while also receiving support towards enrolling and persisting in college. This model focuses on connecting pre-GED programming to post GED success in college. Out-of-school youth ages 17-21 without a secondary credential. Eligible students must test at or above a 7th-grade reading and math level. Operated by providers contracted by the Philadelphia Youth Network.
Description Target Population Partners
E3 Centers offer a holistic approach to preparing out-of-school youth and youth returning from juvenile justice placement to achieve long-term educational, career, and personal goals. Services include low-literacy supports, GED-prep classes, post-secondary access and planning, and intensive work-readiness programming that prepares participants for unsubsidized employment. Other services include job-readiness training, subsidized internships, community-service and service-learning opportunities, and job search assistance. Youth ages 16-21 who have dropped out of school and/or are returning from juvenile justice placement. Operated by providers contracted by the Philadelphia Youth Network.
Description Target Population Partners
The Occupational Skills Training model offers opportunities for technical-skill development in targeted industries specifically for out-of-school, over-aged youth. This model offers an opportunity for youth to improve academic skills through instruction that is experiential and industry-informed. The model also includes wrap-around services that foster participant success in attaining a GED, an industry-recognized credential, employment, or access to an advanced occupational-skills training institution or other higher-education institution. Out-of-school youth ages 17-21 with or without high school credentials. Eligible students must test at or above a 6th-grade reading and math level and also meet the federal Workforce Investment Act eligibility (income and barrier) requirements. Some programs serve youth up to age 24. Operated by providers contracted by the Philadelphia Youth Network.

Key Initiatives

Bridge to SuccessBridge to Success (B2S) was designed to prepare students for success in the Accelerated High School (AHS) setting by increasing their literacy levels. The program aims to increase participants' attendance, credit accrual, and interpersonal and intrapersonal skills, such as communication, teamwork, organization, time management, confidence, motivation and persistence. The B2S program targets students: 1) with reading levels between third – sixth grades on the Tests of Adult Basic Education (TABE) administered at enrollment into the AHS; 2) who demonstrate risk for non-persistence; and 3) who pass the basic threshold for being successful in school (e.g., attending three consecutive days upon re-enrollment). The B2S program was introduced during the 2013-2014 school year at two Philadelphia Accelerated High Schools, Career and Academic Development Institute (CADI) and One Bright Ray (OBR). The Center for Literacy (CFL) is contracted by PYN to manage and implement the B2S program, which largely entails hiring, training, and supporting the two B2S classroom teachers.
ACE+ Pilot ProgramThe School District of Philadelphia currently maintains a portfolio of educational options that includes programs and services for out-of-school youth and struggling students. The portfolio comprises a variety of program types, services and interventions. Chief among these options are the Accelerated High Schools, a collection of small schools expressly built for over-age and under-credited students, ages 16 to 21 who are returning to high school or otherwise significantly at risk of dropping out. As a model, Accelerated High Schools adhere to a common set of design principles and services. They share core objectives in terms of student outcomes, e.g. skill-gain rates, graduation, and successful transition to postsecondary employment or education.

Project U-Turn, Philadelphia's response to the City's dropout crisis, exists as a multi-system, multi-stakeholder campaign organized around four core areas of work: stakeholder organizing; policy barrier removal and funding identification; data and research; and diversification and expansion of quality educational options. The latter focus includes the development of programs and services that strategically and effectively address persistent systemic needs and service gaps. Presently, the need that Project U-Turn is tackling involves enhancing the academic and social readiness of students graduating from the Accelerated High Schools and transitioning to postsecondary education.

During the summer 2015 semester, Community College of Philadelphia's Division of Adult and Community Education will provide an educational opportunity for up to 100 students across the city's portfolio of Accelerated High School programs that will provide access to higher education and the opportunity to earn college credits while completing high school. This early exposure to college(or dual enrollment) approach contains components outlined in Job For the Future's (JFF) 2009 publication entitled Innovations in College Readiness. This model has proven successful at decreasing student dropout rates, increasing student success in enrolling into and completing college, reducing the amount of time and resources spent in developmental/remedial courses, and instituting new approaches to incentivizing students through the early offering of free college courses to high school students.

This intensive five-week summer program will give participants the opportunity to take up to two college courses each, at no expense to them. Program participants will have the opportunity to select from a variety of exciting, 21st century academic and technical skill building courses that will be offered on the Main Campus of Community College of Philadelphia. The courses will be taught by seasoned college faculty, and the students will have a chance to earn college credit, meet other students from diverse backgrounds, and explore their career interests.

Reports & Research

Separate and Unequal: A Path Forward for Neighborhood High Schools

The Philadelphia School District faces many challenges ranging from financial instability, to insufficient funds, to high staff turnover, markedly at-risk student population and epidemically low levels of performance. This report on the neighborhood high schools lays out recommendations for vital next steps to move our schools forward.
(December 2015)

A Promise Worth Keeping

Advancing the High School Graduation Rate in Philadelphia Full Report
(May 2015)

A Growing Commitment to School Climate and Safety in Philadelphia

Capturing the Rollout Experiences with Restorative Practices & Schoolwide Positive Behavior Support
(November 2014)

Bringing Students Back to the Center

A Resource Guide For Implementing And Enhancing Re-Engagement Centers For Out-Of-School Youth
(November 2014)


Get Involved

Employers Increase hiring and/or providing of meaningful, hands-on opportunities for young people that benefit both youth and employers.
Providers Work with key partners to build smoother transitions from school to work through closer collaboration among schools, community colleges, universities, nonprofits and employers so young adults can gain valuable, transferrable skills while becoming ready for college and careers.

Help high school students get ready for college with college tours, dual enrollment opportunities, Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FASFA) completion, post-secondary financial literacy programs, and peer-to-peer mentoring. http://phillygoestocollege.com/
Funders Spur partnerships with employers, school districts, colleges and post-secondary technical schools for integrated, work-based learning experiences and certification opportunities for youth.

Partner in building wraparound services into educational and career programs, particularly as many “opportunity youth” face significant obstacles to upward mobility.
Legislators/Policy Makers Set goals for increases in and improvements to apprenticeships, internships, job shadowing and other forms of work experience for Philadelphia's young people.

Help all students understand their education and career options, including: career and technical education; internships and apprenticeships; alternative programs; and information about the fastest-growing job sectors in the Philadelphia region.
System Partners Help us create new opportunities! Leverage your resources and influence.

Develop and expand how we align our expertise, resources, and influence to bring effective strategies to scale across our city.
Community Stakeholders/Advocates Advocate for expanding high-quality education to Philadelphia's youth by supporting the Campaign for Fair Education Funding. http://fairfundingpa.org
Youth Join our Youth Advisory Council! Contact us to learn more.

To learn more about Project U-Turn, send us an email.

Collaborative Members

Join the Collaborative! If you would like to discuss becoming a member of the Project U-Turn Collaborative, please email us at the Philadelphia Youth Network.
City of Philadelphia
Mayor's Office of Education Mayor's Commission on Literacy • Department of Human Services (Education Support Center, Delinquency Division) • Philadelphia Housing Authority • Philadelphia Youth Commission • Philadelphia District Attorney's Office
School District of Philadelphia
Office of Multiple Pathways to Graduation • Office of Strategic Analytics • Truancy Office • and Office of Early Childhood Education
Philadelphia Youth Network (Managing Partner) • Congreso de Latinos Unidos • YESPhilly • Center for Literacy • District 1199C Training and Upgrading Fund • Youth Build Philadelphia Charter School • Community College of Philadelphia • Public Citizens for Children and Youth • Youth United for Change • Philadelphia Education Fund • William Penn Foundation • United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey • Youth Representative
Project U-Turn