Learn How Alternative Schools are the last chance for Drop Outs to get their high school diplomas and how California is trying to locate potential drop out students early during the school years and ensure they don't drop out.
Joshua: Somebody told me that school is not for everybody. And I take that at heart as a young student and I just went with all the bad. Rob: It took a long time for Joshua Sims to finally realize what he could accomplish in school. Joshua: Now I know that this future is bright for me. Rob: Joshua just earned his GED through the Job Corp., in the process he and his classmates had proved something to themselves and their families. Stacy: I've never done anything to make them proud. I'm just glad I put a smile on their face, actually say I achieved something. Rob: Job Corp. is federally funded program through the US Department of Labor. And in many ways, it offers student who drop out a last chance at an education. Brian: Job Corp. is a career training, vocational facility who works with young adults, 16-24. They can come in, have opportunity to obtain their GED or a high school diploma. Rob: At the Job Corp. campus in Sacramento, there are examples of newly learned skills. The Cement Masonry class built this bridge and koi pond. The landscaping class, put in the nearby grass. And the heavy equipment class is busy building a new courtyard. Character development and exposing students to trade skills are also becoming common place in public schools, especially continuation schools. Joe: We need to be able to create opportunities for students to be successful. And I think a lot of them have not been successful in their environment, they become frustrated. Elvira: Students that come to a continuation high school are not bad or horrible kids. They are children who have fallen through the cracks in the comprehensive high school education level. Rob: That was the case for Courtney. A student at Daylor Continuation high school. Courtney: I used to take care of my parents. I used to take care of them from starting when I was about aged like 11, 12. And then they passed away in December 2006. My dad passed away December 1st 2006 and then my mom passed away December 11th of 2006. When they were alive I wouldn’t even care about school, but I promise to myself that, to where I am now they could be proud of me. Rob: Courtney believes the smaller school setting of Daylor, and the connections she's made with teachers like Elvira Ford are big reasons why she’ll be graduating this spring. Elvira: Good job. When you have a small school, you have time to spend with each student individually and they need it. Each individual teacher sits down with a student. Talks about the credits they have earned. How they can achieve more credits in the next quarter. And forms a plan with the students about graduation. And that is our goal this graduation. Courtney: If I need help with a problem or just someone to talk to, like outside my family, they're there for that. Elvira’s my favorite teacher here and she's just, yeah. I really like her. I will going to miss her after graduation. Rob: But for all the individual successes, many wonder if the sheer number of continuation schools is a sign of a bigger problem. Russ: Every high school district in California has a continuation high school. Rob: There's an argument, if kids could be reach earlier, a lot alternative schools wouldn’t be needed. Russ: California actually has more non-traditional high school than regular traditional high schools. And we have about 1000 comprehensive high schools in the state. We have about 1500 non- traditional. Gloria: We know that dropouts don’t start in the 12th grade or 11th grade or the 10th or 9th. We know that the dropouts start very early on. And so if we are going to curb the dropout problem, we know that we got to start very early. Rob: More and more effort is being put into identifying potential dropouts early. Emily Ballesteros is the program coordinator of the Dropout Prevention Specialist Program in Sacramento State. Emily: Graduates of our program learn to identify potential dropouts, identify why students leave the schools. And the program also gives the tools, skills necessary to go back to their schools and implement these strategies. Cynthia: Students have to have a reason to come to school and be successful. I think they need to be engage and connected to something in the school, whether it’s a program, it’s an individual teacher, it’s the coach, it might even be one of the classified personnel that maybe they get along real well with the campus supervisor. The person that encourages the student to hang in there, do well, get your assignments done. So that connection is a critical piece. Rob: Success is happening in small packets throughout the state. But many experts argue, systemic change is needed before the drop out picture will improve state wise. Russ: The state needs to rethink, I think, what's it done in the past especially with respect to dropouts. Different districts are doing them and individual schools are flourishing, but the system it’s the idea that the state has to look at the system as a whole. That’s what's lacking I think right now.