Seven percent of American youth between the ages of 16 and 24 were not in school and had not earned a high school diploma or the equivalent as of 2013, according to the latest data available from the National Center for Education Statistics.1 To assist these young people, many school districts are offering high school reentry programs. Dr. Julia Wilkins, who specializes in helping youth with disabilities complete high school, studied the characteristics of a successful high school reentry program and summarized them in a report titled, "Reentry Programs for Out-of-School Youth With Disabilities."2 Here are five elements your high school reentry program should have to maximize student success:
1. Blended Learning Programs
Blended learning that combines online with face-to-face teaching has become increasingly popular in high school education. The Clayton Christensen Institute projects that half of all high school courses will be delivered online in some form by 2019.3 Research into the results of hybrid learning models remains ongoing, but studies are promising. For example: A two-year RAND study of 25,000 high school and middle school students found that in the second year after implementing a blended learning program, algebra students that combined self-paced learning software with class-paced textbooks made statistically significant gains over students following a traditional curriculum.4
For high school reentry students, a blended learning approach helps those students who, for whatever reason, have limited ability to be physically present in class. It also gives students who have fallen behind class an opportunity to catch up on their own schedules. At the same time, the inclusion of face-to-face teaching in the blended learning model provides students with the benefits of having an instructor and peers present.
2. Computer Access
A blended learning model depends on students having computer and Internet access in order to take advantage of digital and online learning resources. Some students face barriers here due to limited financial resources, technical problems, poor internet service or service interruptions. One solution for students in these situations is to provide teacher-staffed open computer labs in community locations, where students can both use computers and receive one-on-one assistance. Another option is to provide laptops that can be checked out by students for use at home.
3. Flexible Class Enrollment, Hours and Locations
Students who are re-entering high school often have child-rearing or job commitments that cut into their ability to attend class during regular hours. To assist youth in this situation, take a flexible approach to course programming. This can include accommodations to student schedules, such as offering year-round enrollment, evening classes, Saturday classes and partial-day classes. It can also include flexibility in location options, such as offering home tutoring and distance learning.
4. Expedited High School Completion Programs
Providing flexibility also means providing alternative methods of completing courses. There are several ways to expedite course completion:
- Allow students to pursue self-paced lessons using online learning, textbook self-study, and tutoring
- Permit competency-based testing to accelerate completion for students who come into your re-entry program with strong existing skill sets
- Let students create portfolios demonstrating "learning from life" experience outside the classroom
5. Support Systems
Finally, many students need support systems in place to succeed in a high school reentry program. These young people often face a wide variety of obstacles to attending school, ranging from lack of transportation or troubles finding childcare to struggles with substance abuse. You can help by providing such things as bus passes, day care, and counseling services. When students in these types of situations have the support they need, completing high school becomes an attainable goal, and the benefits are significant, not just for that student, but for their family and the community at large.
Recommended for You: The Time is Now for Blended Learning - Part 1Resources: (1) National Center for Education Statistics (2) National Dropout Prevention Center for Students With Disabilities (3) Clayton Christensen Institute (4) Education Week