Dropout Prevention Update
From the National Dropout Prevention Center
December 2020—Vol. 20, No. 6
Alternative or non-traditional schooling and delivery model options (e.g., alternative times and environments, blended learning, virtual learning, competency-based credit opportunities) provide alternative avenues to credit-earning and graduation, with programs paying special attention to the student’s individual and social needs, career goals, and academic requirements for obtaining a high school diploma and transitioning successfully to life beyond graduation.
Throughout this pandemic, many alternative schools have faced the largest challenges. In San Diego Unified School District, alternative schools have suffered over a 7% drop in enrollment. This is troubling since alternative schools tend to serve many of San Diego Unified’s most vulnerable, such as students who are having trouble academically for one reason or another. However, while some groups are seeing drops in enrollments, Harford County Public Schools in Baltimore has seen overall enrollment drop by over a thousand students, but their alternative program has grown by a third since the beginning of the pandemic. Alternative programs are serving a critical role in dropout prevention through this pandemic as students need more flexibility.
CLASS Academy, in Beaver County, California, is working to change the stigma around alternative schools. School districts place students at CLASS Academy to create a more individualized plan for each student. The academy works with the parents and home school district to determine the best fit for the student. The school provides pathways to graduation and for students to return to their original school. As a positive, students who graduate from the academy receive a diploma from their home district. In Houghton, Michigan, a couple has set up college scholarships for some students at Horizons Alternative School called Lighthouse Learners. This program provided full-ride scholarships at Michigan Tech for students who went through a program from Grade 5 until they graduated from high school. The grants were set up to encourage students who may have never considered college and to help where college grants, other scholarships, and loans could not quite cover. The program also gives children role models, mentors, and after-school and summer activities to motivate them to pursue higher education. These activities include spiritual and character development and service projects.
Early Childhood Education
Birth-to-five interventions demonstrate that providing a child with additional enrichment can enhance brain development. The most effective way to reduce the number of children who will ultimately drop out is to provide the best possible classroom instruction from the beginning of school through the primary grades.
Early childhood education has always been greatly impacted by home and the community, but now is being impacted more so than ever as many young students log into school virtually. United Way in Denver, Colorado, has reworked their Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters (HIPPY) program that teaches disadvantaged parents and underserved families how to help their children learn at home. The program that used to include home visits now consists of Zoom calls where some parents even learn to read alongside students. Some of the program’s volunteers are graduates of the program. One of the challenges parents of young students face during the pandemic is childcare as they work while their children learn online. In Concord, New Hampshire, the local YMCA is offering childcare and academic support for staff members’ children. The program has enrolled 32 children and an average of 18 kids attend the program each day, depending on their hybrid school schedules. Parents pay on a sliding scale, based on household income, and monthly tuition ranges from $75 to $300 per child.
A recent study from the National Institute for Early Education Research, led by Dr. Steve Barnett, found that many 3-to-5-year-old children have suffered from the lack of hands-on activities and socialization due to the pandemic. The study found that just 10% of children enrolled in preschool before the pandemic received a robust replacement for in-person preschool attendance. Children are suffering setbacks, coupled with summer learning loss that can occur in any environment pandemic or not. A recent survey by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) shows that 40% of programs are “certain they will close permanently without additional public assistance.” Nationally, 18% of childcare centers and 9% of family childcare homes remain closed.
Early Literacy Development
Early literacy interventions to help low-achieving students improve their reading and writing skills establish the necessary foundation for effective learning in all subjects. Literacy development focus should continue P-12.
Access to books has never been a higher hurdle in early childhood education than it is today, and Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library Program is looking to combat it. The program allows for children five and younger to claim a free book through the mail. In Clallam County, Washington, the program is funded through the local United Way and library system. The program, now in its 25th year, has quickly adapted to the distance learning that many children now face. The program is spreading quickly as the governor’s office in Ohio is pushing to spread the program. The Ohio legislature has already funded two years of the program to promote early childhood literacy in children from the time they are born until age five. The first book order in 1995 totaled just over 1,700. Today, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library sends more than 1 million books per month to children around the world to inspire them to "Dream More, Learn More, Care More and Be More."
California has begun to develop a 10-year plan for early childhood education, taking steps to stabilize programs and increase the availability of childcare. One large portion of the plan is the early identification of bilingual learners as over 60% of early childhood students in California speaks a language at home other than English. Young children who speak a language other than English at home are known as dual-language learners. Once they get to kindergarten and higher grades, students who are not yet proficient in English are usually described as English learners. Currently, the state wants to start by better identifying who and where these students are so that they can receive support as they are learning two languages while developing. Marlene Zepeda, professor emeritus in Child and Family Studies at California State University said, “If we don’t know if they’re a dual-language learner, a child who doesn’t speak English is put into a sink or swim situation. That to me is foundational. You cannot address the needs of dual-language learners if you don’t know who they are or where they’re located geographically”
Deadline: February 1, 2021
Awards of up to $75,000 will be awarded to help meet the needs of American society in the areas of youth and scientific education by awarding grants to nonprofits, while strategically assisting communities in deriving long-term benefits. Honda supports youth education with a specific focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) subjects in addition to the environment.
Awards of up to $10,000 will be awarded to existing and provably successful literacy programs. Believe in Reading will consider funding programs that serve any age or aspect of supporting reading and literacy, including adult literacy or English as a second language projects. Believe in Reading targets successful literacy programs that serve populations that show out-of-the-ordinary needs, such as geographic areas with low reading scores and high poverty levels.
Deadline: February 1, 2021
Awards of $2,500 are awarded to support the planning and implementation of a unique and innovative program for children that motivates and encourages reading, especially with struggling readers. The reading program must be specifically designed for children in kindergarten through Grade 9 in a school library setting. The grant committee awards the grant to an innovative program that demonstrates the potential for reading improvement; promotes the importance of reading; and facilitates learners’ literacy development by supporting current reading research, practice, and policy. The program’s potential for replication should also be apparent. The applicant must be a personal member of AASL.
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