SALT LAKE CITY, Oct. 29, 2012 — No two students are the same. But academic leaders from NoDropouts, which has partnered with more than 65 school districts across the country to implement programs to turn dropouts into diploma holders, knew that the process of trying to craft specific educational interventions for individual at-risk students was often a game of trial and error. And too many students were falling through the cracks.
So earlier this year, chief academic officer Rebekah Richards and program principal Deborah O’Brien introduced a set regimen of prescribed interventions to be implemented in response to common indicators of lagging student productivity. The result? A 386 percent increase in monthly assignment completion.
Richards presented the NoDropouts findings at the National Dropout Prevention Network Conference in Orlando, Fla., on Oct. 16.
“Sometimes they’re called ‘quitters,’ and that’s a shame, because many dropouts have endured far greater challenges than their critics could fathom,” said Richards, a pioneer in online education who co-founded NoDropouts in 2007 with the intention of using online learning, coupled with a living, breathing and caring support network, to serve at-risk students.
The interventions Richards and O’Brien designed are intended to help at-risk students recognize and celebrate their intrinsic resilience – and apply it to their academic challenges.
“We have definitely been encouraged by the results,” O’Brien said. “But the way we look at things, this is just a start. We’re already working on the next iteration.”
O’Brien said the idea is not to create a set of intervention standards so rigid that the students’ teachers and mentors have no room to adjust for personal circumstances, but rather to “create a baseline – a starting point.”
NoDropouts’ unique flexibility-support-accountability model allows students to learn in a system that feels “hands off,” Richards said.
“In reality, though, we’re keeping tabs on them in ways they’ve never known. We know when they’re working on assignments and we can closely monitor, in real time, both their rate of completion and their level of success,” she said. “Using these measures, along with the personal contact we make with our students throughout the week, we can sometimes tell that something has gone awry in their lives before they ever realize it’s happening.”
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— Jeff Beck, Graduation Alliance, email@example.com, 801-931-2707