Completing high school is challenging enough in ideal situations, but an increasing number of students are facing extracurricular responsibilities that make finishing high school even harder. Coming from a foster child background, having to work to support a family, growing up in a military family, and pregnancy are just some of the challenges that make finishing high school harder for many students. For instance, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 30 percent of teenage girls who fail to complete high school cite pregnancy or parental responsibilities as the main reason.1 Among girls who have a child before age 18, only 40 percent finish high school.
Here are some strategies that high school administrators and counselors can use to make it easier for students with external responsibilities to succeed in high school.
Offer Night Classes
Since 2009, Community College Review has been noting a growing trend of colleges offering late-night courses as a way of meeting the demanding schedules of busy students.2 While this has not yet become quite as popular at the high school level, a growing number of high schools are also offering night classes as a way to better meet the needs of students. Approximately 33,600 students aged 15 to 23, representing 1.93 percent of students, now take some night classes, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.3 About 8,400 students in this age group, or 1.11 percent, exclusively take night classes.
Most high school night courses are geared toward students who failed to complete high school on time, but some are offered for students who want to complete high school on an accelerated timetable, according to Learn.org.4
Make Online Learning Options Available
Nontraditional online learning courses are another increasingly popular option for high school students. A 2014 Project Tomorrow survey found that 83 percent of high schools were now offering online courses. Sixty-six percent of principals surveyed cited remediation as one of the reasons for offering online courses, and 61 percent cited offering credit recovery as a motivation. For students who need to stay at home to watch children or who find it difficult to attend class on a regular schedule for other reasons, online learning represents an opportunity to learn on their own schedule at their own pace.5
Offer Blended Learning
High schools that offer online learning often find that it works well in combination with traditional classroom teaching for better meeting the needs of students. For instance, Chicago's Huntley High School finds that blended learning allows students to have a more flexible schedule, enabling them to get textbook work done on their own timetable and devote more in-class time to getting one-on-one attention from teachers.6 Ninety-two percent of Huntley High students surveyed said they found blended learning a satisfactory experience, and no teachers reported a negative experience with it. The school also reported spending $3,500 less per student in the blended learning program than the Illinois average.
Provide Case Manager Services
Provide nontraditional students with case managers who could help them gain access to social services such as healthcare, counseling, therapy, career guidance and mentoring. For example, the Chicago school system, along with school systems in such places as St. Paul and San Francisco, has found that providing social support for teen mothers can improve their educational performance, Social Work Today reports.7 Collaborating with community organizations can make it easier for schools to provide social services without overextending their own resources.