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Characteristics of Reentry Programs for Out-of-School Youth


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Title: Characteristics of Reentry Programs for Out-of-School Youth

Characteristics of Reentry Programs for
Out-of-School Youth
  • Julia Wilkins, Ph.D.
  • Research Associate

  • Review of recovery initiatives
  • Review of reentry programs
  • Definitions
  • How are dropout reentry and recovery defined in
    your state/school district?

Need for a Broad Range of Options
  • The variety of reasons that students drop out
    makes it difficult to implement a uniform
    approach to reentry
  • Many students who drop out have a long history of
    course failure and retention (Kaufman Bradby,
    1992 Roderick, 1993), and returning to school to
    obtain a high school diploma may therefore seem
    like an unachievable goal
  • Students who repeated a grade and are
    significantly overage may feel embarrassed to
    return to school

  • Students who drop out often had poor
    relationships with teachers and may even believe
    teachers wanted them to leave (Croninger Lee,
    2001 Fine, 1991 Jordan McPartland, 1994
    Rumberger, 1995)
  • Lack of close relationships with teachers can
    lead students to feel alienated and disconnected
    from school (Cooper Liou, 2007 Le Compte
    Dworkin, 1991) and students are unlikely to want
    to return to same environment
  • Many students drop out because classes are not
    perceived as interesting (Bridgeland, DiIulia,
    Burke Morison, 2006)
  • Personal and family situations may have forced
    students to drop out

Credit Needs
  • Most students who reenroll in traditional public
    schools do not earn enough course credits upon
    reenrollment to graduate within 5 years
  • Of students who reenrolled in the San Bernardino
    City Unified School District over a 5-year
    period, only 18 ultimately earned a diploma,
    representing just 6 of the students who dropped
    out (Berliner, Barrat, Fong, Shirk, 2008)
  • The Denver Public Schools and Colorado Youth for
    a Change (CYC) analyzed data from students who
    dropped out of high school in the 2006-2007
    school year and found that only 3 of students
    were in situations where they could easily return
    to the traditional school system (28 of 17-20
    years olds had very few credits)

Reentry Programs
  • Specifically attempt to address the barriers
    students face in returning to and remaining in
  • child care for parenting students
  • self-paced classes for working students
  • Learning is placed in real-world contexts
  • work experience, service learning
  • Small class sizes
  • Partnerships with community-based organizations

Options for Returning Youth
alternative schools
High school diploma and associates degree
community-based schools
High school diploma/GED and work experience
School District-Specific Options
  • Los Angeles Unified School District
  • Continuation high schools, Alternative Education
    Work Centers (AEWC)
  • New York City Public Schools
  • Young Adult Borough Centers, Learning to Work
  • School District of Philadelphia
  • Accelerated high schools, Educational Options
  • Portland Public Schools
  • Alternative programs that offer credit recovery,
    credit for proficiency, and credit for
    work/volunteer experience

Initiatives to Locate and Reenroll Students
Characteristics of Reentry Programs
Flexible Programming
  • Year-round enrollment
  • Classes in the evenings and/or on Saturdays
  • Classes in morning, afternoon, and evening
  • Classes in various locations
  • Online courses
  • Self-paced curricula
  • Variety of course delivery modes (e.g.,
    project-based, independent study)
  • Alternative modes of course completion (e.g.,
  • Students can return to school at any time
  • Flexible timetabling enables students with other
    commitments to attend school
  • Self-paced courses allow students to succeed even
    if they cannot maintain regular attendance
  • Overage students are more likely to attend school
    at alternative sites than reenroll in traditional
    high schools
  • A variety of instructional and assessment
    techniques can accommodate individual learning

Examples of Flexible Programming
  • Portland Public Schools, Oregon
  • Alliance High Schools operates on four campuses,
    including two night schools for working and
    parenting students and a school with a technical
    education focus at which students can participate
    in job shadowing and internships
  • Diploma Plus Schools in Indiana
  • Offer flexible scheduling, flexibility in course
    titles and construction of courses, alternative
    instructional media, and competency-based route
    to high school diploma (Arlington High School)
  • Youth Connection Charter School (YCCS)
  • 22 community-based campuses around Chicago that
    offer portfolio-based course completion, dual
    enrollment in high school and community college
    programs, evening programs, and targeted programs
    for gang-involved, pregnant, and parenting youth

Options for Credit Recovery and Accrual
  • Opportunities to earn high school and college
    credits through dual enrollment at high school
    and community college
  • Opportunities to obtain a diploma and
    industry-recognized credentials
  • Credit for internships/work experience
  • Credit for community service
  • Self-paced online credit-recovery programs
    (available at school or alternative location with
    credits transferred to home school)
  • Students who are overage can obtain high school
    diploma in timely fashion and make headway into
    occupational certificate or associates degree
  • Students can earn credits while developing
    employment skills
  • Students can earn industry qualifications that
    increase their chances of gaining employment
  • Online courses can be taken from any location
    with internet access

Examples of Options for Credit Recovery and
  • Online Credit Recovery
  • At The Arkansas Virtual High School students can
    take supplemental courses and have credits
    transferred to their home school
  • Houston Independent School District has Grad
    Labs (computer labs with self-paced online
    credit-recovery program) at 46 school campuses
  • Gateway to College
  • 24 colleges in 14 states at which students can
    complete high school diploma requirements while
    simultaneously earning college credits

Meaningful Curricula
  • Students can see connection between education and
    real life
  • Students can gain qualifications that provide
    entry to the workforce
  • Students can gain exposure to work practices and
    related employment skills
  • Service learning gives students sense of civic
  • Recipients of service learning projects gain from
    students contributions
  • Academic instruction combined with training for
    industry-recognized credentials
  • Opportunities for on-the-job training
  • School-to-work internships
  • Service learning projects
  • Mentors and instructors from local businesses
  • Instruction in soft skills needed for employment

Examples of Meaningful Curricula
  • Rosemary Anderson High in Portland, Oregon
  • Students work towards high school diploma while
    participating in job shadowing and paid
    internships with local businesses
  • Gonzalo Garza Independence High School in Austin,
  • In addition to job shadowing and internships with
    local nonprofit organizations, students can take
    a multi-credit course in horticulture and sell
    herbs at a local farmers market
  • Baltimore City Career Academy in Maryland
  • Academics, work experience, and soft skills
    needed for employment are addressed through an
    integrated curriculum

Additional Services and Support
  • Additional academic instruction (e.g.,
    individualized tutoring)
  • Classes in areas such as parenting, life skills,
    and conflict resolution
  • Services such as child care, counseling, and
    substance abuse
  • Case managers to coordinate additional services
  • Mentors to provide ongoing support during
    transition to college or employment
  • Students can get individualized support in areas
    of academic weakness
  • Students can learn additional skills needed for
    the workplace (e.g., anger management,
    appropriate dress)
  • Barriers toward attendance can be minimized
  • Services can help to address needs of the entire
  • Assistance with obtaining employment or attending
    college can be individualized

Examples of Additional Services and Support
  • Los Angeles Conservation Corps
  • Operates 3 charter schools that provide
    counseling, mentoring, and job search coaching
  • EDCO Youth Alternative in Boston
  • Counselors from Wediko Childrens Services
    provide conflict resolution and crisis management
    services, The Higher Education Information Center
    provides college preparation, The Boston Private
    Industry Council (PIC) provides career
  • Youth Opportunities (YO) program in Baltimore
  • Staff provides SAT preparation, postsecondary
    information, and college tours. Students with
    disabilities are referred for vocational services
    at Sinai Hospital where they receive job-seeking
    skills, direct employment, and case management.

Staff Involvement
  • Collaborative meetings between teachers, parents,
    and students to establish students learning
  • Close teacher monitoring of students behavior
    and academic performance
  • Teams consisting of various school personnel to
    help address students problems
  • Attention to instructional/credit needs as well
    as day-to-day needs
  • Staff who is accessible both in school and after
    school hours
  • Staff to provide ongoing contact and support for
  • Students educational programs can be
    individually tailored to meet their needs
  • Involved staff can make referrals to appropriate
    outside resources and services
  • Students who got lost in the crowd in previous
    high schools feel increased sense of support and
  • Mentors can motivate students to graduate from
  • Students can be given personal guidance to help
    them transition to postsecondary education or

Examples of Staff Involvement
  • Academy of Scholastic Achievement (ASA), a Youth
    Connection Charter School (YCCS) campus in
  • At the beginning of each school year, teachers,
    parents, and students collaborate to develop
    students individual learning plans. The plans
    outline students learning and behavioral
    objectives, as well as teacher expectations and
    potential barriers to students success.
  • Austin Independence School District (AISD) in
  • Each school campus has a task force that
    intervenes when students experience attendance,
    academic, or behavioral problems. Task force
    members include principals, counselors, nurses,
    dropout prevention specialists, regular classroom
    teachers, and special education teachers.
  • The Reengagement Center in Philadelphia
  • Staff evaluates students academic needs and
    directs them to appropriate academic programs, as
    well as other supports. E.g., Advisors from the
    Citys Office of Mental Health meet with youth to
    conduct clinical interviews, assess their
    behavioral health needs, and make behavioral
    health referrals.

  • Local businesses for onsite job training and
  • Local colleges to allow for dual enrollment
  • Community-based organizations to provide
    alternate settings at which students can take
  • Local organizations to increase students access
    to community resources
  • Social service agencies to provide services for
    particularly vulnerable groups of youth
  • Students can simultaneously gain diploma and
    vocational experience/qualifications
  • Students can earn college credits while working
    toward high school diploma
  • Students can make smooth transition into
    postsecondary education
  • Students can get access to a variety of community
  • Students varied needs outside of school setting
    can be met

Examples of Partnerships
  • Partnership between Los Angeles Unified School
    District (LAUSD) and the Los Angeles Community
    College District (LACCD) enables every LAUSD
    student to take at least one college transfer or
    career/technical course before leaving high
  • In Vermont, partnership between high schools and
    Learning Works, the statewide adult education and
    literacy system, enables students to complete
    high school diploma through service providers in
    the community.
  • New York City Department of Education operates
    Learning to Work in collaboration with Good
    Shepherd Services (GSS). GSS staff provides
    supervision for students in the workplace and a
    year of follow-up support.
  • The Horizonte Instruction and Training Center in
    Salt Lake City has partnerships with local
    government agencies, businesses, and
    community-based organizations to host resource
    fairs and seminars on topics such as employment,
    housing, and banking. Also provides meals to
    students and their children through partnership
    with the Utah Food Bank.

Next Steps
  • Review characteristics of reentry programs for
    particularly vulnerable groups of youth
  • Develop database of reentry programs
  • Create groundwork for future research

Upcoming Publications
  • Reentry Programs for Particularly Vulnerable
    Groups of Youth
  • African American and Hispanic/Latino
  • Native American
  • English Language Learners
  • Foster Care
  • Juvenile Justice
  • Homeless
  • Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT)
  • Substance Abusers
  • Mental Health Needs
  • Teen Parents

Database of Reentry Programs
  • Will be available on National Dropout Prevention
    Center for Students with Disabilities website

Contact Information
  • Dr. Julia Wilkins
  • Martin St.
  • Clemson, SC 29631
  • Tel 864.656.2595
  • Email