Programs for High School Dropouts I. Multi-approach Multi-approach programs provide a variety of responses to address the issue of high dropout rates. Such programs offer a multi-dimensional approach, often offering both prevention programs and programs to assist youth who have already left school. Such programs may be community-based, operate within schools or both and provide services and programs ranging from alternative high schools to GED tutoring and job skills training. Project U-Turn – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania1 Project U-Turn was established by the Philadelphia Youth Council in 2004, is managed by the Philadelphia Youth Network, and is led by a citywide collaborative with representatives including members of the School District, City agencies, foundations, and youth-serving organizations, as well as parents and youth. The collaboration operates a number of programs to address the high dropout rate in the city of Philadelphia, including establishing new accelerated high schools to offer alternative methods of obtaining a high school degree for students who were unsuccessful in traditional public schools and placing dropout prevention specialists in seven high dropout schools. As of October 2006, 158 youth were reconnected to educational pathways, including 140 to high school diploma programs and 18 to GED programs. Project U- Turn also operates a hotline that had received calls from 1,554 youth as of October 2006 who had questions about educational program options available to them. The program runs the E3 Center Initiative as a one-stop system for reconnecting out-of- school youth and formerly adjudicated youth with GED preparation programs and offers Bridge and Transitions programs designed to assist out-of-school youth in acquiring skills and credits necessary to succeed upon reentry to the formal public school system, as well as the option of a competency-based curriculum in which students can gain credit based on demonstrated competencies. In addition to alternative education and prevention methods, the project opened a new Re-Engagement Center in May 2008 for former dropouts seeking to complete their education. Students are monitored for 120 days but a center staff member and are connected to social and emotional services to address the underlying reasons the student dropped out of school, in addition to academics. As of August 2008, the center had already served 200 youth and can serve up to 1,200 youth. To better assist juvenile offenders in continuing their education, The Reintegration Initiative (a collaboration of DHS, Juvenile Probation, and the School District), is working to strengthen curriculum alignment, credit transfer, and career and technical education programming at the six primary facilities serving Philadelphia’s delinquent youth. The project has secured funding to design and open a new high school specifically for youth returning from juvenile detention facilities that will provide career and technical education (CTE) programming combined with the curriculum of an accelerated high school. WAVE (Work, Achievement, Values and Education), Inc.2 1 For additional information, see: “Project U-Turn: Paving Pathways to Educational Success.” http://www.projectuturn.net/ WAVE is a private organization that provides schools and community-based organizations the tools to develop programs to respond to the growing problem of high-school dropouts. WAVE assists middle-schools and high-schools in developing programs either in a classroom setting or after-school to prevent students from dropping out. WAVE also offers a curriculum that can be used by community-based organizations outside of schools for youth who have already dropped out of school, as well as offering training, ongoing technical support, and back-up sort to these organizations. The “Job Readiness Curriculum” is designed to assist youth in learning the skills they will need to succeed in getting and keeping a job including creating a résumé, filling out applications, interview skills, making career decisions, demonstrating appropriate appearance, attitudes and behaviors, and completing tasks effectively. The program includes a curriculum for establishing a WAVE Leadership Association to assist young people in reinforcing the skills they learn through the program. WAVE staff members also assist young people in gaining education credentials, including a GED. II. Alternative Schools Alternative high schools recognize that many young adults drop out of school because they have been unsuccessful in their often large, impersonal public schools and work to provide more individualized attention in smaller settings to assist students who have dropped out or are in danger of dropping out attain their high school degrees. Alternative schools are either led primarily by schools or by community agencies, but typically require the collaboration of both to be successful. Rebound Program – Aurora, Colorado3 The “Rebound” program, an initiative of Ombudsman Educational Services in partnership with Aurora Public Schools, Colorado Youth for a Change and the Community College of Aurora, provides an alternative learning environment for students who have dropped out of high school or been expelled. The program provides Credit Recovery Centers at each of 4 comprehensive high schools, dual-credit courses to provide college credit through the Community College of Aurora, and Ombudsman Educational Services for expelled and drop-out recovery students. An all-inclusive on-site program offers a personalized, student-centered curriculum attend for four hours a day during one of three scheduled sessions – morning, afternoon, and evening – to accommodate individual schedules and needs. During that time, students receive three hours of academic instruction and a fourth hour of behavior intervention, social skills training and life skills management. Qualifying students may attend the program four days a week with transportation provided to the Community College of Aurora one day a week to take a three-hour college course. A dropout recovery specialist works with community nonprofit organizations and faith-based groups to identify dropouts, contact them, and market the alternative education programs as a way to complete their education. 2 For additional information, see: WAVE (Work, Achievement, Values and Education), Inc. http://www.waveinc.org/ 3 For additional information, see: The Aurora Public Schools Rebound Program: Academic RE-entry and BOUND for Success for Youth of Promise. http://www.aps.k12.co.us/alternatives/rebound/index_files/frame.htm#slide0290.htm Alternative High School Initiative4 Funded through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Alternative High School Initiative aims to establish educational opportunities for youth who have been unsuccessful in traditional school settings through the collaboration of various youth development organizations. AHSI aims to provide “authentic learning, teaching and performing assessment” that provides an inclusive approach, has clearly stated learning objectives, makes learning practical to the real world, and fosters a life-long love of learning. To personalize learning, AHSI conducts an intake assessment of each youth’s needs, identify and provide access to wrap-around services to ensure success, provide productive interpersonal relationships in a small-school setting, and provide a range of programs. AHSI recognizes the importance of shared leadership and responsibility, establishing youth boards and ensuring transparency in administration. The program establishes and maintains supportive partnerships at the school, community and intermediary level. Finally, the program aims to provide future-focused education by providing students with the skills needed to be successful in college, exposing students to both two- and four-year higher education options, providing students with the opportunity for work-study, and offering college courses. Worcester Public Schools – Massachusetts5 WPS collaborates with nonprofit agencies to maintain a list of alternative programs to assist high school dropouts in continuing their education and receiving a degree. One such program, the Gerald Creamer Center, can serve up to 250 former dropouts during the day and, as of June 2008, up to 70 in its evening program. Other alternative programs provide services for other specific populations of students, including English language learners, special needs students, and middle school students through personalized instruction and counseling. III. Community-Based Programs Community-based programs vary greatly, but typically are run by local organizations that provide high school dropouts with tutoring to earn a GED, training to learn work skills, or some combination. Youth Build USA - Massachusetts6 Youth Build programs provide low-income youth ages 16-24 with the opportunity to learn job skills by building affordable housing for homeless and low-income people while also working toward a GED or high school diploma at the Youth Build alternative school. The program lasts 6-24 months. Youth Build programs were operating in 11 communities throughout Massachusetts as of November 2008. In 2004, the program began operating the Youth Build 4 For additional information, see: Alternative High School Initiative. http://www.ahsi.info/ 5 For additional information, see: “Urban Violence in the Commonwealth: Prevention, Intervention, and Rehabilitation.” Governor’s Anti-Crime Council Urban Violence Subcommittee. November 2008. http://www.mass.gov/Cago/docs/Community/uvs_report_final.pdf 6 For additional information, see: “Urban Violence in the Commonwealth: Prevention, Intervention, and Rehabilitation.” Governor’s Anti-Crime Council Urban Violence Subcommittee. November 2008. http://www.mass.gov/Cago/docs/Community/uvs_report_final.pdf USA Youthful Offender Project after being selected by the Department of Labor to work with 325 disconnected youth. Although the recidivism rate for youth in the program, at 25%, was higher than the program’s goal, it is still much lower than the national average. Project Reconnect – Boston, Massachusetts7 Boston’s Private Industry Council hired two “dropout recovery specialists,” both former dropouts who worked to identify youth who had dropped out of school and to help them return to school. In addition to assisting youth on an individual level, the program conducts research into the reasons young people leave school, why they return, and the challenges they face and provides policy and program recommendations. The specialists work with the Boston Public Schools (BPS) Project Reconnect outreach team, a collaboration of various BPS departments, the Boston Youth Service Network, and the Work Place career center. While the program has had some success in getting youth to reenroll in school, 51 of 81 students who re-enrolled for the 2006-2007 school year dropped out again and only 119 of 208 students who re-enrolled in September 2008 began school in January and remained in school. The program has made some changes to respond to this problem, including improved school matching, a wider range of options, and greater support for these students. Through the Youth Transitions Task Force, community partners are working to provide external supports and have established a one-stop career center youth employment specialist who provides employment and training connections for these youth. Life and Careers Direction Program – Buffalo, New York8 The Life and Careers Direction Program began as a collaboration between People, Inc. and Suburban Adult Services in 2002 with the goal of providing young adults ages 14 to 21 who dropped out of Buffalo public schools with help to finish high school and start careers by providing academic and vocational counseling, job readiness training and placements, and mentoring advice. Young adults referred to the program received entrance interviews and case management assessments and were referred to support services including housing, financial, and/or health support. Suburban Adult Services and People, Inc. provided educational counseling, tutoring, and job placement services. The program encouraged younger juveniles to complete a Regents diploma or GED and to seek further education and training, while coalition members offered 19-21 year olds job development, paid and unpaid work experiences, and job coaching. Community Action College Readiness Program – Texas9 The Community Action College Readiness Program works to prepare students, aged 16 to 25, who have previously dropped out of Texas public schools for college by helping them pass 7 For additional information, see: “Project Reconnect.” Boston Private Industry Council. http://www.bostonpic.org/programs/project-reconnect 8 For additional information, see: “New Program Offers Direction for High School Dropouts.” BFNC News. Summer/Fall 2002 http://www.bfnc.org/Newsletter/sum2002News.pdf. 9 For additional information, see: “Community Action College Readiness Program.” Community Action, Inc. http://www.communityaction.com/CRProgram/CollegeReadinessProgramFactSheet.pdf the GED and a Texas-approved college entrance exam. Students in the program spend at least 6- 12 hours per week in class or using the online software, create an individualized learner’s contract, and commit to completing a two-year college degree program. The program provides instruction to prepare students for college-level math, reading and writing, counsels youth on clarifying goals and potential career paths through individual graduation plans, helps youth with getting financial aid (grants, loans, and/or scholarships), and works with students to help them develop critical thinking skills, time-management, and study skills. The program also provides student mentors who were once in similar situations to help support the students’ efforts. The program can provide some limited assistance for other services, such as childcare or transportation, on an as-needed basis. IV. Connecting with Dropouts on a Personal Level Some schools offer an individualized approach to get dropouts back in school. Such programs often utilize volunteers who reach out to youth at their homes and in the community and discuss with them the benefits of staying in school. Such initiatives often provide special opportunities for youth to register to reenroll and attempt to provide services that address the problems that resulted in the initial drop out. Reach Out to Dropouts – Houston, Texas10 The “Reach Out to Dropouts” walk is part of “expectation: GRADUATION,” a citywide initiative to increase high school graduation rates, and is a program operated by Houston Independent School District in partnership with Houston A+ Challenge, a nonprofit education organization. The program recruits and trains HISD teachers, counselors, administrators, business people, parents, and other volunteers to visit students at home in teams to encourage them to re-enroll. All area high schools are open the day of the walk to allow students to re- enroll that day. Teams referred students to community resources to address any underlying concerns that would prevent them from returning to school. In 2005, all HISD high schools were directed to establish credit-recovery programs to assist students who are already behind to catch up on school work and earn the credits necessary for graduation. In 2007, 60 of the 680 students contacted during the walk began the re-enrollment process that day. Great Kids Come Back – Baltimore, Maryland11 Great Kids Come Back is a program to reenroll students who have dropped out begun by Andrés Alonso, Chief Executive Officer of Baltimore City Public Schools, as a partnership between Baltimore City Public Schools and community partners. The program involves a multi- layered approach to reach out to hundreds of students that had dropped out since the beginning of the 08-09 school year or earlier. In late September, individual schools reached out to students that had left their schools, community organizations went into neighborhoods, knocking on 700 10 For additional information, see: “Volunteers Needed for Fifth Annual Reach Out to Dropouts Effort.” HISD Connect. http://www.houstonisd.org/HISDConnectDS/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=4526eba4e3c5b110VgnVCM10000028147fa6 RCRD&vgnextchannel=e1b9393d9b623110VgnVCM10000028147fa6RCRD 11 For additional information, see: “Great Kids Come Back.” Baltimore Community Foundation. 7 October 2008. http://www.bcf.org/pressroom/news_detail.aspx?nid=99. home doors, to personally connect with students and their families. The program ran radio ads and handed out flyers that promoted resource fairs held at local schools where students could re- enroll in school, including alternative programs for over-age students, and sign up for programs and services to support their goal of graduating from high school. The Baltimore Community Foundation created the Baltimore City Public Schools Fund to provide grants to community organizations that could provide volunteers to knock on doors and engage with dropouts on an individual level. After the first round of attempts to contact about 900 students who had dropped out, 198 students re-enrolled in school.