Posts filed under ‘HS Re-engagement’

Dual Enrollment and Its Promise

My brother taught me a lesson about offering a promise at the end of goal achievement. It may just be the missing link for many high school re-engagement programs. Dual enrollment can take a student from his or her return to high school through access to a college degree. Going back to high school for that diploma is hard, and the reward it offers is limited. But a college degree means forever on a resume…clearing a hurdle for access to the middle class.

A while ago during a failed job interview for a position in student re-engagement, I totally blew it on the HR rubric. I went outside of the box and cited my brother, Tom Wright, as one of my personal heroes. Tom had spent the last 20 years creating and developing a market for home mortgages for Native Americans. My link to work with high school drop-outs must have been a bit too obtuse, but it’s still a story about keeping an eye on a prize.

Tom’s work began in an era when much of the housing stock on Indian reservations was below code, and home ownership eluded many Native Americans due to missing or low credit ratings. However, he recognized that there was a market and a dire need for access to both credit and safe housing. He just needed a method.

Tom developed a two-year course of credit counseling for Native Americans with weak financial backgrounds that promised approval on a home mortgage if they finished the program with a successful payment history. Paying ones bill could lead to 1st time home ownership, a rarity at the time. Possession of a plywood shack on tribal land was all many of his clients could hope for as they dodged their creditors.

The financing of the risk for mortgage lenders was the rub, but Tom saw a solution in money set aside for Native American housing awards through the Wounded Knee Treaty. A clause in the agreement funded a housing lottery that awarded homes to a small number of winners in Indian Nation each year. He went to tribal elders across the Midwest and Western reservations and discussed redeployment of that money to fund a risk pool that would cover a larger number of people. In short, rather than giving ten people houses, they could cover the default risk on mortgages for dozens of people. Eventually, Tom won program adoption, and a housing boom began.

Now, back to education…how can a mortgage plan for a small demographic group relate to the broad population of American drop-outs? I would form a different question…what does a high school diploma offer? It has become a serious hurdle for millions of drop-outs who cannot get access to even low paying jobs. However, a high school diploma no longer ensures access to the middle class. One needs a college degree for that. And I see that college credential to be very much like the mortgage for the highly indebted denizen of substandard housing.

Going back to high school is very difficult. It means returning to a scene of failure and, often, a place that has left students under-served in the past. Just more of the same is small incentive for participation. There has to be more, and that may account for the higher success rates seen with dual enrollment in community college systems for high school drop-outs. The prize for successful effort is an Associate’s Degree, professional certification, and, in many systems, guaranteed access to a four-year state college.

Overcoming inertia to break a failure cycle is not its own reward. The prize needs to be real and change lives. We can do that.

Tom’s story is still in progress, but I asked him a year or so ago what he considered to be his legacy. He stated quite simply that twenty years ago Native Americans had no access to traditional home mortgages, and today they are treated like any other American at the bank. Quite an accomplishment…but there’s icing on the cake. When the real estate market began to collapse a few years ago, his programs were still experiencing a default rate of about 1%. People who earned their way into a new standard of living seem to treasure it.

Advertisements

November 15, 2012 at 9:43 AM Leave a comment

Targeted Solutions for Students Not Attending High School

I am interested in working on alternative education programs and gathering data to assess their effectiveness. The concept is summarized below…

 This proposal seeks to explore ideas for students who have experienced difficulty succeeding in traditional high schools. The model is more of a program than a school, but it might fit into a transfer school or borough center. Initially, my program would target one of three cohorts of high school students:

  • Students who have earned most of their high school credits but have one or two specific content area deficits preventing them from graduating (e.g., math or science),
  • Students who function below grade level as a result of cumulative absenteeism and would benefit from a period of remedial skill development to catch up with their peers, or
  • Students (ELL) who have delayed enrollment in high school and have little experience with national or local curriculum frameworks.

 While many students initiate their return to school, I am interested in developing a small collection of programs and recruiting students who have not been attending school to test their effectiveness.

Academic programs would comprise short cycles of full-time immersion in a content area. Each curriculum would be tailored for remediation and comprehensiveness to meet the needs of students. In addition to attending classes, students would have the option of spending part of each day either pursuing online course work and independent assignments or getting more individual instruction in a skills lab environment.

Students who have been caught up in failure cycles need multiple opportunities for success early in the change process. Compact course modules allow then to accumulate credits relatively quickly and to experience deeper understanding of content that once mystified them. From an instructional perspective, content focus allows for greater flexibility and creativity within the curriculum while meeting specific learning needs.

Both the remedial skills program and the ELL program would focus on universal skill sets for content areas. The first would create a bridge to the curriculum by honing prerequisite skills. The latter would introduce the overarching goals and common skill sets for each content area within the context of advanced cultural studies in the student’s native language.

My reasons for creating a program rather than a school are twofold. First, the immersion courses would target relatively homogeneous groups of students to solve specific needs – a model that would be unsound for education in general. Secondly, traditional high schools have more options for elective courses and fine approaches to college preparation. The goal of my program would be to set the students on a path to success that would allow them either to earn their diplomas relatively quickly or earn enough credits to return to high school in good standing to complete their studies.

February 14, 2011 at 5:26 PM Leave a comment

A proposal to re-engage students not attending high school

Mission Statement

 Our Mission: To create a learning environment that enables students who are overage and under-credited to re-engage in education, design a personalized plan for accelerated progress toward graduation, and chart a path for success after high school.

 We have the vision that every student should finish high school prepared for a bright future. To be successful, students must rediscover their voice within the community, their identity as lifelong learners, and their goals to continue their educations and pursue rewarding careers.

 We believe that change is not easy and that every students needs to participate in a precedent setting re-entry program in order to reset their expectations for achievement.

We empower students to define their own credit recovery plans based on their learning styles, program flexibility, and decision support systems.

We know that educational opportunities and mentoring experiences extend beyond the school walls and seek partners for virtual learning, dual enrollment in college, community service, and workplace training.

Together, we value diversity within our academic village and approach one another with a tone of decency, respect, and the presumption of good intentions. We strive to meet the needs of each student as an individual while celebrating success as a community.

Essential Aspects of the Program

The new high school or program will re-engage students and facilitate their successful completion of high school through

  • A unique full-immersion entry period for resetting expectations for student achievement,
  • A student-specific learning plan for accelerated progress to graduation, and
  • Advisory programs to enable students to reinvent themselves and facilitate decision-making.

Students will rediscover their voice within the community and their identity as lifelong learners. Each will graduate with access to continuing education and aspirations for a rewarding career.

Initially, academic programs would comprise short cycles of full-time immersion in a content area. Each curriculum would be tailored for remediation and comprehensiveness to meet the needs of students. In addition to attending classes, students would have the option of spending part of each day either pursuing online course work and independent assignments or getting more individual instruction in a skills lab environment. Diagnostic testing for learning issues or knowledge gaps would inform instruction as well.

Students who have been caught up in failure cycles need multiple opportunities for success early in the change process. Compact course modules allow then to accumulate credits relatively quickly and to experience deeper understanding of content that once mystified them. From an instructional perspective, content focus allows for greater flexibility and creativity within the curriculum while meeting specific learning needs.

Once students have developed new patterns for engagement in learning, they would have the option to modify their schedules to define course sequences, expand the curriculum, or pursue offsite learning opportunities. Ownership of their educations will be crucial for student success in this phase. Advisors would facilitate program development by helping students create pacing plans and apply for alternative learning options. Each course would be offered in at least two levels of intensity.

The Advisory program would address issues of identity, voice, and goal setting. Students who have stopped attending school demonstrate a paradoxical mix of leadership and inertia. Often, they have acted decisively and against the advice of others based on a limited view of their possibilities, choosing isolation and academic failure as self-fulfilling prophecies. The goal of the Advisory would be to allow the students to see themselves as leaders while giving them a way to find their voices back in a school community. Small group activities would give students opportunities to experience empowerment and seek a broader range of possibilities from which to make decisions, especially when they feel themselves shutting down. As their credits accumulate, students would shift their focus to plans for school and work after graduation.

February 10, 2011 at 12:30 PM Leave a comment