Program Aims to Reduce High Dropout Rate; Glynn County Hopes to Help Those Who Struggle with Classes

Article excerpt

Byline: TERESA STEPZINSKI

BRUNSWICK - A new Glynn County school system program aimed at reducing high school dropouts is off to a promising start.

Success Academy at Risley Learning Center focuses on high school students who want to learn but are struggling academically. Its 167 students come from Brunswick High School and Glynn Academy, where they had difficulty mastering the course work needed to meet state-mandated achievement standards.

It is one of two new programs Glynn school administrators implemented this year in an effort to reduce a high school dropout rate of 6.7 percent in the 2007-08 school year.

Although slightly better than in 2006-07, the rate was 3.1 percent higher than the statewide rate of 3.6 percent in 2007-08, Georgia Department of Education data showed.

Success Academy students receive more individualized instruction tailored to meet their needs. They also have the opportunity to spend more time on class work than in a traditional high school setting, Principal Jill Smith said.

With a 15 to 1 student-teacher ratio, students get the opportunity to recover academic credits from courses they had failed and to take new academic courses for credit toward graduation. Students learn via a combination of computer-assisted education programs and direct classroom instruction by 14 teachers and 10 paraprofessionals.

They also receive after school tutoring three times a week and during regular "Power Night" and Saturday school sessions, Smith said.

"The most important thing we do here is have a relationship with each child," said Smith, an educator for 15 years. "We also require our teachers to contact each student's parents at least every other week to update them about their child's progress."

Midway through its inaugural year, the hard work by the students and staff appears to be paying off.

"We're looking at 20 students right now who are on track for graduation, and we hope will return to their base schools as second semester 10th-grade students in January," Smith said. "Even those who aren't going back to their base schools yet are passing the end-of-course test requirements."

Mary Claire Jones, academy graduation specialist and counselor, works with students to make sure they stay on track for graduation. …