C-A forms new drop-out prevention partnership

FLINT TWP. — In keeping with the goal of “no child left behind,” Carman- Ainsworth Schools has added an alternative education option targeting dropouts.

They have partnered with Graduation Alliance (GA), an online program designed for students who cannot or will not go to school, said Dave Swierpel, C-A Director of Community Education, describing the initiative to the school board last week.

C-A already offers alternative education programs at Atlantis High School for students 16-19 and at Stalker Adult Education Center for adults (18 years and older) who want to earn a GED.

GA is an opportunity to try and catch some of those students who fall through the cracks, who for a variety of reason including physical illness choose not to go to school or have tried the alternative education programs and opted out, Swierpel said.

C-A offers more safety nets than most districts but still can’t reach some students, he said.

Graduation Alliance is designed to motivate those students to re-enroll in one of those alternative program to complete their high school education.

“This program is designed to reengage them in education and get them back in a school building,” Swierpel said.

Swierpel said he has researched many online programs and not been impressed but he views Graduation Alliance differently.

“They believe that the best place for students to learn is back in the building and that gibes with my belief,’’ Swierpel said.

He described GA as somewhat of a hybrid program that combines online instruction by accredited teachers in all subjects with support staff that includes an academic coach, local advocate, principal, tutors and counselors.

The academic coach sets the learning plan and goals for students and maintains contact online and by phone at least once a week.

Counselors assist with personal issues and obstacles to keep students on the path to graduation.

Online tutors are available 24-7 to be be ready to help students day or night.

A local advocate meets with students face to face regularly to offer encouragement, talk about life problems and tackle obstacles to completing education.

The principal’s role is to coordinate interventions. incentives are built into the program to motivate students to graduate. That might be something like earning an itunes or gas card for turning in an assignment on time. Students also are provided a Chromebook with a 3G wireless card to complete lessons.

All of this is at no cost to the C-A school district, Swierpel said. Funding is provided through the state-funded Section 23a, a dropout recovery program, Swierpel said.

GA only gets paid if the students makes measurable progress toward education goals.

If a student quits or disengages, funding is not provided.

Superintendent Steve Tunnicliff praised that aspect of the program as a safeguard against being just another “money grab.”

Too many online programs have basically involved sitting a student in front of a computer with no monitoring or motivation to succeed, he said.

With GA, if students show no progress, there will be no pay, he said.

He also noted that the GA program is not for everybody. The district does not anticipate enrolling hundreds of students, he said. The aim is to reach a few students who otherwise would not graduate.

Assistant Superintendent Russ Parks added that GA administrators will work from C-A dropout list. They claim they can reach 80 percent of dropouts and that half of them will stay with the program to reach graduation, Parks said.

Founded in Utah in 2007, GA is an accredited program that partners directly with more than 80 school districts nationwide to serve students who have dropped out or at risk of dropping out, according to information on its web site at www.graduationalliance.com

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