Diplomas Count - Issue 34, 2013 - (Page 10)
EDUCATION WEEK JUNE 6, 2013
Diplomas Count > www.edweek.org/go/dc13
Pointing the Way to a More Open Future
37% drop out
a GED was easier
and just as good.
If students drop out of high school because they are bored and don’t see
what they are learning as relevant to their future, it can be tough to get
them interested in more of the same.
The Back on Track Through College model aims to re-engage out-ofschool youths ages 16 to 26 by encouraging them to think about a career
and earn college credentials as they work toward a high school diploma.
Developed by Jobs For the Future, a Boston-based nonprofit education
and research organization, the Back on Track program provides
individual counseling to help students chart a course of study linked to
their own long-term goals.
“Young people who have dropped out can be extremely discouraged
about their ability and capacity to graduate from high school or go on to
postsecondary education,” says Lili Allen, the program’s director.
At first, the program focuses on enriched preparation. Students are
told they are “college material” and immersed in a college-going culture
that emphasizes deep learning over testing. They progress at their own
pace in alternative schools and programs, using a competency-based
approach, and the curriculum builds to become increasingly challenging.
Next, students enroll in credit-bearing college coursework. They
Into Workplace Rhythms
Some students just never fit into the academic
pace and instructional mode of traditional schools.
That’s why some educators are trying to engage
students with programs that more closely mirror the
In the wake of the economic downturn in 2008, the
3,100-student Fred C. Beyer High School in Modesto,
Calif., partnered with the Williamsburg, Va.-based
for-profit firm AdvancePath Academics Inc. to set
up an alternative program for former dropouts and
other students significantly behind in credits for
graduation. The result was AdvancePath Academy,
where students learn in small groups and on their
own in classes designed to mimic a typical office
workspace—down to the cubicles, computers, and
Each day, students attend four-hour morning,
afternoon, or evening “shifts.” They work through
classes both online and in-person, and each student
collaborates with teachers to create an individual
career profile that aligns his or her coursework and
life skills with career goals.
“Once they start to see some success, they become
very transaction-oriented,” says John Murray,
AdvancePath’s chairman and chief executive officer.
“We go through the data with them: ‘You are supposed
to be here five days a week and you’re only here three;
if you were here four days a week, here’s when you
would graduate, rather than way out here. We can cut
down your time by six months if you will just work
with us.’ It’s very easy for them to listen to that.”
The National Dropout Prevention Network honored
the school in 2012 with one of its Crystal Star Awards
for “overall effectiveness in improving educational
outcomes for at-risk students.”
In the 2011-12 school year, 237 students enrolled in
the academy, most of them more than a year behind
in credits for graduation. By the end of the school year,
135 of those students had graduated with a regular
diploma, and about 70 of the remaining students
returned the next year, having closed their credit gap
—SARAH D. SPARKS
by 75 percent.
feel they don’t belong
in school and can’t
receive intense academic support and help develop good study habits
and time-management skills to ensure success in early-college classes.
The third phase provides first-year, postsecondary support to improve
the odds of persisting in college. First-year students are contacted at
least monthly by a designated mentor to help them make good choices
and connect with campus support providers.
The Back on Track model was developed about four years ago in
collaboration with two other youth-serving nonprofits, YouthBuild
USA and the National Youth Employment Coalition, and is in use in a
handful of cities across the country.
Bronx Arena High School, a 125-student New York City public school
serving students ages 16 to 21, is offering the first phase of the Back
on Track model. Principal Ty Cesene says students get all their individualized coursework upfront and can work at their own pace through
the blended curriculum. One teacher takes ownership over a student’s
learning, and students are placed in small groups of 25 with a counselor. When successful students return, they often tell the teachers and
the counselors that it was the support they received and the lessons in
how to self-manage their work that gave them a leg up in college, says
A Lifeline for Teenage Parents
When MacKenzie Adams found out she was pregnant at the
age of 14, people told her she wouldn’t graduate from high
“I wanted to prove to them that I could graduate,” Adams
says. “I knew I had to support my child. I have to grow
up and do what I need to, to provide for him.”
The Graduation, Reality, and Dual-Role
Skills program, or grads, in Washington state
helped her do just that.
According to a study from the
Washington, D.C.-based America’s
Promise Alliance, only 40 percent of
teenage mothers nationwide complete
high school. In the grads program,
81.7 percent of students participating
during 2011-12 finished the year with
either a high school diploma, a ged, or plans
to stay in grads another school year.
Originally developed in Ohio, grads was
launched in Washington state in 1983 to teach
pregnant and parenting teenagers the skills they need
as parents and help connect them to social services while
they continue attending high school. There are 25 programs
in schools across the state, with a total enrollment of about
One of the most important facets of the program is the
child-care services for student-parents.
“The child-care centers are what are costly,” says Mary
Nagel, the family and consumer-sciences education program
supervisor for the state schools superintendent. “But they
are the piece that keeps the teens in school. If the students
have child care at their schools, they are more apt to come to
school and attend class. If they have to drop their children off
somewhere else, then it’s easier to not necessarily make it to
The program seeks to give students the foundational
skills they’ll need to graduate from high school, raise
their families, and gain economic independence.
Students participating in the grads program
take one class, taught by family and
consumer-sciences teachers, and one lab
in the child-care center as part of their
regular high school class schedule.
In the lab, students work in the
child-care center with the center’s
staff and grads teachers to apply the
theories they learned in class. They
practice positive interactions with their
children, including discipline and proper
speech, and then later analyze their lab
“The ultimate role of the program is to give
kids confidence in their parenting abilities, to help
them gain academic confidence so they stay in school, and
help them think about and transition to the next steps in
their lives,” Nagel says.
Adams, now 17 and preparing to graduate from the grads
program in Aberdeen, Wash., says it has been “really helpful.”
“I know what to expect with my child, what I should watch
for, how to talk to him and understand him,” she says. “I’d
be a way different parent without the grads program.”
34% drop out
and other life events.
SOURCES FOR STATISTICS
ON THESE PAGES: National Center
for Education Statistics; Education Week
Reasons to Stay
Dropouts give a common array of reasons
for leaving school. Targeted dropoutrecovery programs have been created in response.
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Diplomas Count - Issue 34, 2013
Diplomas Count - Issue 34, 2013
A ‘Neglected’ Population Goes Back to School
Age Can Determine Access To Free Education, Diploma Pathways
State Statistics and Strategies
High School Equivalency Test Gets a Makeover
Reasons to Stay: Tailored Interventions
Online Providers Find a Market In Returning Dropouts
Second-Chance Challenge: Keeping Students in School
A Chicago Charter Network Stanches The Flow of Dropouts
Sound-Engineering Class Hooks Reluctant Student
Teenage Father Makes Journey From Dropout to Top Student
Honor Student Disconnects, Re-engages at CCA
Graduation Rate Approaching Milestone
TABLE: Graduation in the United States
DATA: Detailed Analytic Portrait
TABLE: Graduation Policies For the Class of 2013
Sources and Notes
Diplomas Count - Issue 34, 2013