The Innovation that Sticks Case Study Research Program

The Cost of Dropping Out: What are the alternatives?


We will examine how one alternative Indigenous-focused learning program has successfully improved graduation rates and prevents students from dropping out.

The EdCan Network’s desire to reach every learner compels us to investigate and provide important insights into how we address the significant challenge of ensuring that more students attain high-level skills regardless of personal circumstances or differences in their learning needs.

Since 2015, the EdCan Network’s ‘Innovation that Sticks’ research approach and reports have provided concrete guidance and support to school district leaders faced with the challenge of determining how they can get their own “innovations to stick” and achieve their goals. In 2017-2018, our case study research program will focus on one alternative dropout prevention program for Indigenous learners.

2017 Focus: Towards Fewer Dropouts

Data demonstrates that there are high costs to school dropout and inequity, and that not investing adequately early on in alternative education programs can lead to long-lasting consequences for both individuals and societies. Therefore, to advance the shift from evidence to practice, the EdCan Network would like to leverage the 2017 Indigenous ‘Innovation that Sticks’ Dropout Prevention Case Study Research Program to help determine the long-term value of investing in alternative education programs, and explore the reasons why some school districts may hesitate to expand the availability of alternative programs despite their success.


Although student retention is a serious pan-Canadian challenge shared by every province and territory, dropout rates amongst First Nations communities are significant examples worth paying attention to. For Indigenous students, graduation rates are dismal. As 2011 statistics show, of the Indigenous population aged 25 to 64, 28.9% did not have a high school diploma compared to 12.1% of non-Indigenous Canadians. Low levels of educational attainment have a direct impact upon socio-economic conditions, with 2006 data demonstrating that the median income for Indigenous peoples ($18,962) was 30% lower than that of non-Indigenous Canadians ($27’097)[1]. For these reasons, the 2017 EdCan Network Indigenous ‘Innovation that Sticks’ Dropout Prevention Case Study Research Program will focus on one alternative school, public school or school district with a specialized dropout prevention program for students who identify as First Nation, Inuit and Métis, anywhere in Canada to share with educators facing similar challenges across Canada.

Stage 1 Application – 500-word description

In this first stage of a two-stage application process, in 500 words or less, we want you to introduce how your learning program has successfully improved graduation rates and prevented students from dropping out.


If your preliminary application is shortlisted, your team will be asked to produce a more detailed description of your innovative work. A jury of student retention/early school leaver experts will review these Stage 2 applications and select one Indigenous ‘Innovation that Sticks’ Dropout Prevention Case Study Program to showcase.


  1. You will receive a $5,000 bursary to be used to continue to support and expand your dropout prevention program, presented to your team at a public recognition event in your community.
  2. Your program delivery team will provide time and expertise in meetings with an EdCan Network researcher at your school between September-December 2017, who will then publish a case study report and videos that tell your story to other change leaders across Canada.
  3. Your team will also have the opportunity to write a feature article in Education Canada Magazine about your innovative work and could be invited to present your dropout prevention program at a future EdCan Network professional learning event.

This case study program represents a golden opportunity for you and your program delivery team to be recognized nationally as evidenced-based pioneers and to play a lead role in informing, inspiring, and impacting colleagues facing similar student retention challenges.


Stage 1 program applicants must demonstrate:

  • Evidence that the program has been in operation for at least one full academic year.
  • Evidence that it’s an alternative program that focuses on student retention and/or dropout prevention.
  • Evidence of knowledge of and support for this program from your school district or declared education organization working in conjunction with a Band Council

Stage 2 program applicants must demonstrate:

  • Evidence of innovation in program design and assessment rubrics.
  • Evidence that the innovation is, or has the potential to be replicated in other classrooms, schools and school districts.
  • Evidence of positive impact on preventing students from dropping out.
  • Evidence of openness to working with EdCan Network throughout the year and publicly sharing lessons learned, including challenges and barriers.

A Selections Committee comprised of student retention/early school leaver experts will refine selection criteria and choose the 2017 Indigenous ‘Innovation that Sticks’ Dropout Prevention Case Study program. The EdCan Network staff and a contracted researcher will work closely with the key players of one alternative school, public school or school district with a successful alternative Indigenous dropout prevention program to identify:

  • Systemic issues within education systems and how specific alternative programs cater to a plurality of learning styles.
  • The ways in which student well-being, socio-economic background and parental engagement influence school success.
  • Strategies employed to ensure buy-in and support (financial and in-kind) of the program by school leaders and administration, as well as other stakeholder groups.
  • Policies, programs, and/or incentives provided to teaching staff to attract and retain qualified teachers.
  • The creativity used in programs and practices to strengthen student engagement and retention through meeting diverse learner needs, including teacher-student ratios.
  • A cost-benefit analysis of the alternative school or program in relation to a traditional public school within the school district.
  • Practices that strengthen the teaching of Indigenous history, cultures, traditions, languages, values, ceremonies and unique worldviews.

[1] Ferguson, Sarah Jane, and John Zhao. “The Educational Attainment of Aboriginal Peoples in Canada.” The Educational Attainment of Aboriginal Peoples in Canada. Statistics Canada, 23 Dec. 2015. Web.

Supported by

state farm logo

This initiative is generously sponsored by State Farm Canada, which shares EdCan Network’s commitment to supporting leaders who are transforming Canada’s public education system.

Further Information

Requests for further information should be sent by e-mail to Mia San Jose at

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