Posted tagged ‘at risk students’

Redemption, Return, and Recovery: The Future of the Three R’s

September 13, 2010

Intro

Several years ago, I was charged with the responsibility of supervising an urban school district’s online credit recovery program.   At first, I reasonably questioned the validity of such a program relative to authentic student achievement and the dedication of non-traditional and at-risk students who formerly exhibited a devalued sense of the educational process and the associated achievement that can be realized through rigorous commitment.

For those unfamiliar with a credit recovery program, they are generally grounded in disruptive innovation theory and provide non-traditional student populations with an opportunity to claim academic credits that were lost due to course failure or excessive absence and time away from the traditional learning environment.

There are myriad examples of credit recovery programs currently in operation in the nation’s public schools.  I’ve witnessed everything from watered-down summer school programs to thoroughly organized,  demanding, and standards aligned  programs providing an asynchronous technologically integrative platform.  Like the Promise Academy Charter School in Cleveland, Ohio, which serves upwards of 750 students in an online credit recovery program housed in a three story renovated bank located in the business district of downtown Cleveland, Ohio, I chose to model what I observed to be a very successful and well managed program.  I flew from central Pennsylvania to Cleveland, Ohio and embarked on a two day period of intense site immersion in an attempt to collect the most relevant data for analysis towards the construction of an authentic framework for implementation back at home.

The purpose of this particular entry is not to necessarily focus on online credit recovery programs, but briefly provide insight as to the benefits of such a program to a challenging minority student population.

School records, Communication, and Re entry

The school district of record was experiencing a significantly high number of credit deficient students.  Roughly 1 in 5 students was behind in course credits, not on grade level, and prone to two outcomes:  dropout or attend school for more than the traditional four years. Even more impactful was the 10% drop in student population over the course of eight years. This indicated a serious dropout dilemma in the school district.

With this data in hand, I immediately began to work proactively by advertising this opportunity to administrators, guidance counselors, frustrated parents, community leaders, and anyone who was willing to hear my story whether at church, the grocery store, or barber shop.

Once the word got out that we were making a valid attempt to offer a paved road void of the obstacle laden experiences of their past, students ranging in age from sixteen to twenty-one flooded my office for an application, consultation, and request for immediate enrollment.

In the very least, the groundswell indicated the want to secure a high school diploma.  The current and former students wanted to get their lives back on track beginning with the successful completion of high school.

Consultation

To understand the gravity of this experience, interviewing the students and collecting the necessary information related to their enrollment and academic plan, I must admit that I was often left with critically consuming emotions.

The potential student population served through the credit recovery program ran the gamut.  From students who had not attended school in over one hundred days to relatively new mothers to young men recently released from juvenile detention facilities and county prison, these were the students that were lost in the downward spiral of the system.  These students existed within a grey area that was often dismissed by educators.  They were the non-traditional, the at-risk, and those who experienced a less than favorable experience while in school.  These students represented a growing trend in American society.  I realized that we could not dismiss them, ignore them, or relegate them to a life of low stratification wrought with the cascading dilemmas of an adult life burdened by a lack of personal achievement and ancillary resources.

As I interviewed the students and family members, my administrative office morphed into a counseling center as I listened intently to stories filled with the sorrow, regret, and a legitimately overstated want for an attempt at academic redemption.  Kleenex™ was a standard desk item.

Students were experiencing such a dearth in course credits that a return to a traditional high school setting was not a consideration.  For example, a nineteen year old teen mother who amassed just twelve academic credits and had not been to school for two years was not a candidate for reentry into a traditional school setting.  Her needs eclipsed those of the typical junior in high school.  She needed daycare, employment, and housing.  The only way to successfully claim lost credits was through an online credit recovery program.

A Commitment to Recovery

During the course of the year, we successfully enrolled three hundred students with close to two hundred claiming a number of lost credits, returning to the traditional high school at grade level, and subsequently graduating eighty eight students who would have either dropped out or taken another year and a half to graduate.

As I frequented the two classrooms housing the credit recovery students, a phenomenon was occurring beyond that of the intended credit accumulation.  Students were attending with a higher frequency than at the traditional high school.  Students were developing an independent nature that somehow never developed prior to this progressive technological experience.   As students accumulated credits, a circularity developed that caused them to add credits at an alarming rate.  Again, many of these students were the castaways, push outs, and discipline problems.  They moved through the academic program modules that were aligned to state standards and district textbooks. They were given periodic online assessments.  If they did not score proficiently in the online assessment, the module automatically reverted to a tutoring module that emphasized the areas of low performance.  Once completing these tutoring modules, students were, once again, assessed for proficiency with an entirely different assessment set.  The ability to fail and not be permanently penalized helped boost the self-esteem of the students.  They were able to develop their own learning and evaluative processing style that transcended the learning environment to their lives outside of school in terms of situational evaluation techniques.  Further, they were able to exist as themselves in an unbiased setting that too often challenged their identity during the most intense moments of identity development, consideration, and commitment.

Success

As another school year came to a close, eighty eight students were getting sized for graduation gowns, drafting lists of announcement recipients, and planning for a life after high school graduation.  As the administrator of a program that was criticized by both teachers and administrative peers caught in the architecture of a century old traditional model, I stood before these students with adulation and pride.  Many had overcome situations that you and I would never want to endure.  Many parents and students alike never thought that this day would occur.  Thankfully, online learning has made this a reality for over two million of America’s children.

Outro

The successful completion of the credit recovery program increased the graduating class of 2009 by twenty five percent. 

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