Wednesday, August 6, 2014
By STACEY HAIRSTON - Staff Writer
Franklin County High School is offering a new alternative education program, "Choices," in an effort to make sure all students have every opportunity to earn a high school diploma.
"Choices is designed to provide very individualized help for the small number of students who are failing due to discipline issues, low SOL and test scores, and other outside factors," said Principal Debora Decker. "It is a program for those students who have demonstrated that a traditional path to graduation is not working for them."
School officials recognize that family, jobs and other outside factors can impact a student's success in school.
"We are trying, to the best of our ability, to address those issues," she said.
The program also works to identify the students' goals and where they are in relation to achieving those goals, Decker added.
"The students get the chance to work with mentors and guest speakers and even get some job shadowing experience," Decker said. "The program is not designed for long term. It is a short-term program meant to get the struggling student back on the right track."
School officials have been working towards an alternative education program for years. Before now, the high school only offered the Individual Student Alternative Education Plan (ISAEP) program, also known as the General Education Development (GED) program, to ages 16 through 18.
The federal government does not recognize the GED as a diploma, so students who receive their GED are counted as "drop-outs" in terms of calculating a school's on-time graduation rate, Decker said.
"Although the GED helps those students who need a different approach to education, it counts against us as a school," said Decker.
FCHS's federal on-time graduation rate is currently 80 percent and only recognizes students who earn standard or advanced studies diplomas.
However, Decker said the school's state graduation rate is 90 percent because Virginia recognizes all diplomas, including standard, advanced studies, modified standard, Individualized Education Program (IEP) diplomas and GEDs.
The school is fighting these statistics by offering three ways for a struggling student to recoup some of the missing credits needed to graduate.
In addition to the new Choices program, some core 10th-grade classes are now being offered in a year-long format as opposed to a semester format.
"Some kids do better with the same information spread out over a longer period of time," said Decker. "We've offered this option for a number of years to our ninth-graders, but this is the first year we are extending it to 10th-graders."
The high school is also offering a credit recovery program that will help students master material and units that were initially failed.
"In the past, if a student failed to master material in a class, they would have to come to summer school in order to earn that credit," said Decker. "Now, they have the option to participate in our credit recovery program to make up the missing material and earn that credit."
The program allows students to work in curriculum-based hybrid sessions with teachers, as well as online, to master the objectives they are missing.
During the last school board meeting, Decker announced that 15 seniors from the Class of 2014 were required to attend summer school in order to gain enough credits to receive their diplomas.
"All 15 of them attended summer school and all 15 of them passed and received a diploma," said Decker.
A total of 24 credits are required for a student to earn a standard diploma from FCHS. An advanced studies diploma requires 26 credits.
"The Choices program got its name because of the choices the struggling students have made so far," Decker said. "The program is about making better choices for themselves."
"The bottom line is that the student is the only one who has control over whether they succeed or not," she added.