Tuesday, April 21, 2009

‘Pathways’ option for dropouts

This program as explained in this article seems to putting the onus of failure completely on the student. It doesn't consider that some youth may be "at risk" because they didn't have access to a quality teachers, counselors, and curriculum, or adequate resources. While this program seeks to help youth we need to start addressing and investing in resources as preventative measures so that we're sure to serve ALL students, rather than waiting for the intervention phase when we've already lost high percentages of youth.


Schools’ program offers area-students a second chance


Lifestyles & Features Editor

The reasons are many: poor attendance, academic challenges, the economy, discipline problems, family situations.

Those are a few of the scenarios that could cause a student to drop out of school. In Beaufort County, the dropout rate — 5.76 percent during the 2007-2008 school year — has decreased in recent years, although it remains higher than the state average of 4.97 percent over the same time period.

But Beaufort County is addressing the issue: It’s examining why students in public schools leave the classroom and also providing an alternative method for dropouts to obtain their high school diploma.

The Beaufort County Schools Pathways to Success program, in its first year, serves more than 60 students who for a variety of reasons never finished high school.

The program’s slogan is “Pathways to Success. Stop. Think. Choose.”

“The North Carolina Legislature has put aside special funding to address dropouts,” said Michele Oros, BCS director of Pathways. “It first set aside $7 million, and we were one of 60 recipients.”

Beaufort County received $150,000 to implement the new program for the 2008-2009 school year. In October, an additional grant was provided to ensure Pathways would continue through the 2009-2010 term, Oros said.

The money must be used to prevent students from dropping out or to fund programs, such as Pathways, that allow those who have already left school to return and finish their high school education.

Pathways targets former students younger than age 21 who are looking for a second chance, Oros said.

Many of them were struggling in the traditional high school setting and were unable to complete the courses they needed to graduate. Pathways focuses on the core curriculum, including four years of math and English courses, and offers some additional vocational and technical elective classes.

“We hope to get some more of these courses on this campus,” Oros said. “We’re trying to expand our range of offerings from what is currently available here.”

Long range plans are in place for the Pathways program, Oros added.

“I personally feel this program has the potential to change the equation by providing students with a true option,” she said. “And it will help the local workforce by having graduates who can be employed gainfully.”

Approved by the Beaufort County Board of Education, Pathways adheres to much of the same criteria in place at Washington, Northside and Southside high schools.

“The same dress code is in place and the same student code of conduct applies here,” Oros said.

Charles Robinson is among students presently enrolled in Pathways. The 19-year-old moved to Beaufort County last year, and like others realized he was falling short on credits.

“I was supposed to graduate last year,” Robinson said. “I fell in love with Pathways. It gave me a fresh start, and they teach you the things you really need to learn. The school is just amazing to me. The teachers have a lot of patience with us, and I feel like they’re not wasting my time and I’m not going to waste theirs.”

Robinson anticipates graduating in June. He’s currently job hunting and planning to attend a community college, where he hopes to study carpentry and masonry.

“I don’t want my kids to blame me for not accomplishing what they want in life,” Robinson said. “If you’re not in school, you’re going to have a hard life. If I had to stay in school for 10 years, I’d still want my high school diploma.”

Robinson hopes he will be an inspiration for younger students in the same situation.

“If I can come back from having ninth-grade credits to graduating, they know they can also do well,” he said. “If I can do it, they can do it.”

Oros said the program is already succeeding. The very first Pathways graduate is now taking classes at Beaufort County Community College.

“Our job does not end by graduating them,” Oros stressed. “We assist them if they want to pursue secondary education, and the door is always open here — no penalties, no questions.”

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