Academic journal article High School Journal

Meeting the Needs of `at Risk' Students: The Day and Night School

Academic journal article High School Journal

Meeting the Needs of `at Risk' Students: The Day and Night School

Article excerpt

At 9:30 p.m., the school bell rings. Tired students gather their backpacks and quickly exit old dilapidated classrooms into the cold night air for the last opportunity to socialize with friends before heading home. An elderly security guard clad in brown uniform says good bye to students, warning and them to be careful while heading home. The county sheriff, carrying the daily newspaper and a cup of hot coffee, slowly walks around the campus with the school director, ensuring that there are no students loitering around the poorly lit campus, disobeying school rules. Teachers reflect upon the student response to today's lesson and start to think of new ways to present material tomorrow. The counselor ends a session with a frustrated teen, both walking out of her office wearing smiles. This is the end to what some might call an average school day at the Day and Night School in southeastern North Carolina.

Alternative and "at risk"

For some time, educators have been engaged in a continuing struggle to improve the American educational system. Researchers have been documenting and analyzing for years the ways in which different "at risk" populations of students continually fall through the cracks of the traditional American system of schooling (Ogbu, 1978; Oakes, Gamoran and Page, 1992; Strickland and Ascher, 1992). During the 1960s and 70s, primary attention was directed toward equity concerns (Noblit and Johnston, 1982). The 1980s emphasis on high stakes testing renewed attention and interest to standards and accountability. While high school graduation rates generally continued to rise throughout these periods, the consequences of dropping out of school continued to become more profound for at risk students. Thus, a number of educators have directed attention and efforts to the retention of students in high school and the completion of degree requirements for those who have already opted out of the system. Although most schools strive to meet the needs of all of their students, large numbers of students continue to drop out of school. For this population of "at risk," "disadvantaged," or "chronically disruptive" students, alternative schools have been a popular solution.

Raywid (1994) identifies three different types of alternative schools characterized as: popular innovations, last chance programs, and remedial focus alternatives. Type I alternative programs are usually schools of choice, and are based on the belief that if school is challenging and fulfilling for all students, student outcomes can be improved. These schools are `alternative' in pedagogy and the types of instructional innovations used, rather than in regard to the student population served. Types II and III schools, however, are the kinds of alternative programs that the term "alternative" connotes in most minds; programs designed to channel disruptive students out of the mainstream (Broad, 1977). In Type II alternatives, or "last chance programs," curriculum and instruction is not seen as the crux of the problem. Behavior modification is a priority, where chronically disruptive students are sent to a "soft jail" for reformation. Type III alternatives usually emphasize academic and social rehabilitation and attempt to transition students back into mainstream schools after successful treatment. Type II and III alternative programs are alternative because of the "at risk" populations that they serve.

While the term `alternative education' is all encompassing and includes many different types of programs, the development of alternative programs was to prevent "at risk" students from dropping out or becoming a part of the juvenile justice system (Fuller and Sabatino, 1996). They are designed to meet the needs of populations of students who are experiencing academic and social failure in traditional school programs.

Method

This case study emerged as a piece of the qualitative component of a statewide evaluation of alternative learning programs. …

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