New program helps dropouts re-enroll
A new alternative program offered by the Charlotte County Public Schools would give dropout students a second chance to earn their high school diploma or a GED. Starting Sept. 30, common core and remedial classes will be offered from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m., Monday through Thursday nights at the Port Charlotte Town Center mall on Murdock Circle. The part-time night school, called Students Needing a Pathway to Success, or SNAP, is free of charge.
“We think we can help a lot of adults who understand the importance of education, but the way the system is set up, it is just not working for them right now,” said Ron Schuyler, principal of The Academy at Charlotte Technical Center.
The program is designed for young adults ages 16 to 21 who are not currently enrolled in school, but would like to obtain their diploma, or take their high school equivalency test. Those wishing to do so can sign up for an interview with Schuyler in which their transcripts will be assessed to determine their proper placement, whether it be in high school, virtual school or the Academy. Interviews take place every other Thursday.
“By interviewing them, we are catering to their specific needs,” said Schuyler. “We review everything and we formulate a plan that best suits their lifestyle.”
After gaining remedial credit, students have a better chance to participate in dual enrollment courses where they can earn college credit or technical certification at CTC.
“As it is right now, students who don’t do well on their FCAT have to take remedial classes,” explained Schuyler. “They end up missing out on electives on subjects that they might be really interested in.”
According to data from the Dropout Prevention Council, dropout rates are on the rise. The number of “at risk” students has also increased significantly and the graduation rate of those students has dropped.
“GED completion rates are horrible,” Deputy Superintendent Donna Widmeyer said at a workshop on Tuesday.
Forming the council last year was the first step in identifying several problem areas affecting the district, according to Chantal Phillips, director of Intervention and Dropout Prevention for CCPS.
School scores also affect the district as a whole. Under the current school grading system, public schools that don’t graduate 65 percent of their at-risk students automatically receive a lower letter grade, according to the criteria of the Florida Department of Education. Last year, all three high schools in Charlotte County fell short of that number. School grades and “at risk” student improvement affect teacher assessments and could potentially affect their salary.
“Under this system, kids don’t necessarily want to drop out, but we end up pushing them out,” said Schuyler.
“No one wants to do it, but that is what ends up happening.”
Currently 12 students are enrolled in SNAP classes. Each class has a capacity of 25. There are four teachers who will instruct the night classes and be supplemented in addition to their base pay. There is also a part-time assistant and data technician on staff.