Since the 2008 implementation of the Penn Foster Dropout Retrieval program, thousands of organizations, communities and people have seen results from this educational opportunity. Success stories such as the Polk County School District-where more than 700 students got a second chance at high school graduation-pave the way for future partnerships. The program's proven results, marked by 82 percent graduation rate and 96 percent student satisfaction rates, gave way to another winning partnership with the Scranton School District.

To continue expanding the reach of the Dropout Retrieval Solution, Penn Foster met with the superintendent of the Scranton School District and on April 2, 2013, the Scranton School Board unanimously passed a resolution creating an official and sanctioned partnership with Penn Foster. The program provides Scranton students who left high school an opportunity to come back and gain a high school diploma. Seeking to make a difference for non-completers and the communities in which they reside, the joint venture engages these students and increases their chances for success through innovative solutions that match the evolving needs of 21st century learners.

Encouraging Academic Pursuits with Individually Tailored Programs

The partnership between Penn Foster and the Scranton School District focuses on students in danger of dropping out as well as those who have already left school by providing a second chance at earning a high school diploma. In Scranton specifically, the program enables online credit recovery, enrichment classes and blended learning options to all former Scranton students under the age of 21.

Through the partnership, Penn Foster and Scranton schools address an important issue often overlooked by schools across the nation-learning is not a "one-size-fits-all" situation. Students who fail to complete school may need an opportunity to learn in a welcoming environment that works at their pace and understands their individual needs. "It has opened up a lot of educational paths for students," said Kim Mecca, the district's supervisor of pupil personnel and support services. "We have to be open to new programs, new ideas and embracing technology in the 21st century."

This collaborative effort ensures students receive a tailored, individual success plan that is created by both Penn Foster and Scranton. First, Scranton School District guidance counselors find kids who aren't progressing at a rate they should be and flags them as needing assistance. The school then shows Penn Foster the curriculum of what the student needs to catch up on. With the given data, Penn Foster selects potential courses for the student, and then Scranton selects the top options that fill the gaps necessary to graduate. Currently, students can complete lessons and coursework from home; but Penn Foster hopes to work with the Scranton School District to establish an on-site computer lab, where the schools could provide assistance and tutoring.

Preparing Students for Life

By making programs accessible and achievable for these nontraditional learners, the Dropout Retrieval program lets students know they don't have to give up. They can find hope and a second chance at earning their high school diploma.

The partnership builds up student confidence, which then encourages further academic pursuit and sets them up for success in future careers. Unlike taking standardized completion test like the GED, students gain a deeper sense of achievement by earning an accredited Scranton School District diploma. To help prevent the burnout and frustrations that are common in traditional learning environments, the program offers current and returning students varying options to complete high school.

The option for online-only courses provide an opportunity to make up needed classes to graduate, while the blended-learning option equips students with the ability to complete coursework online and attend school for specific classes and be involved in extracurricular activities.

Given today's staggering unemployment rate for those without a high school diploma, it's not only important to give students an opportunity to earn theirs, but also to teach them the necessary skills to succeed once they're out in the workforce. The program includes lessons that prepare students to compete in the labor market. In addition to the program's flexible cyber school model, the blended cyber school option, and summer school recovery and enrichment courses, career-focused online courses are provided to offer a work experience component.

Working Together, Achieving Results

Studies and reports continually prove that failure to graduate from high school has become a ticket to the underclass. The Civil Rights Project agrees that while the effects of high school non-completion can be tragic for a single individual, when the majority or near majority of students from entire neighborhoods and communities fail to graduate, the social and economic costs are profound and far-reaching.1

The successful collaboration between Penn Foster and the Scranton School District prove that working together creates positive results. Last school year, the program enrolled 125 students from Scranton (grades 9-12).

Penn Foster equips instructors with progress reports to simplify recordkeeping. Educators can log in to Penn Foster's system and see how their kids are doing, and students have full support from both the school district and individual academic instructors.

To continue the momentum of student success, Penn Foster and Scranton School District have renewed their partnership under Scranton's new superintendent. Students in this year's program can choose from college prep courses or high school course, depending on their interests and needs. For example, students can take business math or consumer math instead of trigonometry, creating more opportunities to build a success plan that works for a student's path and interests.

Sources: Photo; (1) What Your Community Can Do to End its Drop-Out Crisis: Learning from Research and Practice