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Reconnnecting with Out-of-School Youth

Report of 12 Communities

Review from NEA Human and Civil Rights

A new report by Nancy Martin and Samuel Halperin, Whatever It Takes: How Twelve Communities Are Reconnecting with Out-of-School Youth (196pp; PDF file may take a long time to load), examined a number of school programs that educate school dropouts to find out how they accomplish the task in each environment.

Whatever It Takes: How Twelve Communities Are Reconnecting with Out-of-School Youth examined a number of school programs that appear to be successful in educating school dropouts. How they accomplish such a task varies from one environment to the next. Indeed, the authors note that success is - 

More an exercise in imagining what might be, of having the skills, the will, and the stamina to shape reality in more creative and positive directions. There is no one perfect model or blueprint for successful dropout recovery. On reflection, though, we think readers will find that most of the following characteristics of effective dropout recovery efforts recur throughout the community reports.

The traits listed by the authors seem sensible and should be considered by those seeking to reconnect dropouts to school. The traits are described in the table below. What is significant about these traits is that they are all student centered.

Traits of Successful Educational Environments for Out-of-School Students

 Trait  Description
Open-Entry /Open-Exit An environment where students proceed at their own pace. Graduation occurs when students pass state and district requirements.
Flexible Scheduling and Year-Round Learning School sessions vary considerably from program to program. One program has five 8-week sessions with 2-week breaks in between. Such flexibility allows students to be educated according their own schedules.
Teachers As Coaches, Facilitators, and Crew Leaders Being self-paced environments in small, learning communities means that teachers take on new roles—those of coaches, facilitators, and leaders.  There is a strong sense of collegiality as many of the symbols and structures of authority are absent (e.g., teachers and students are on a first-name basis, teachers' desks are absent).
Real-World, Career-Oriented Curricula  The curriculum is career oriented, and there are two goals:  to place a student in the local labor market and to prepare students for postsecondary education.
Opportunities for Employment Many of these environments arrange summer and afterschool employment opportunities for students. Work opportunities are related to students' course work.