Florida - There is a county in Florida that is a long-time client of EdOptions and has implemented Stars Suite® in its schools for several years. When we offered this client an opportunity to try EdOptions Online Academy Safety Net Program for its most at-risk students, administrators jumped at the chance. They have been using the Safety Net Program for nearly a year and teachers, administrators, and students are already amazed and greatly encouraged by the results. Here's how they did it!
Guidance counselors screen students for enrollment eligibility for the Safety Net Program. Students are eligible if they have been unable to pass all Florida Comprehensive Achievement Tests, have a GPA below 2.0, or are a year or more behind their graduating class. Students must have earned at least 17.5 credits prior to enrollment.
Qualifying students have diverse backgrounds: their ages range from 17 to 20; several are already independent, supporting themselves with jobs; many have spent one or more stints in juvenile detention. English is a second language for approximately 70% of the students in this Safety Net Program.
Location and Support:
Students in the Safety Net Program implemented by this county attend school at an alternative school site. One teacher works onsite and is supported by two guidance counselors, while the alternative school administrators supervise the program. This site also houses students on long-term suspension and students who are recommended for expulsion from their home schools. Some students are enrolled in the Safety Net Program by the alternative school itself, while others come directly from home schools or other high schools in the area that use online education through EdOptions.
Time Requirements and Attendance:
The program is operated during regular school days throughout the standard school year. Attendance is heavily emphasized since it is the strongest correlating factor to graduation rates. However, it would defeat the purpose of the program for many students if a required seat time determined continued enrollment. The special circumstances that precipitated students' eligibility for the Safety Net Program still exist for most of those students. Some students attend as few as 10 hours a week, and still succeed in graduating. The key to making flexibility work is frequent communication. Students and guardians are contacted repeatedly if the agreed upon amount of work and attendance are not maintained.
This county served 35 students during the 2010-2011 school year through the Safety Net Program. Twenty-seven students graduated and five withdrew, with three of those five returning in the 2011-2012 school year to finish. This is an 86% graduate and retain-to-graduate rate.
Graduating has a compounding positive effect on students. Less than 25% of participants listed college as a goal when completing a questionnaire on their first day in the Safety Net Program. By the time they graduated, more than 50% had definite plans to attend post-secondary school. The achievement of graduation gave them the confidence to reach higher. Many have notified the alternative school of their acceptance into post secondary schools.
I believe that the graduation rate would have been no greater than 20% (compared to the 86% achieved) if the EdOptions Online Academy Safety Net Program had not been available, based upon the obstacles these students face with traditional education requirements." - Site Facilitator