The report of proceedings from the 5th annual Alternative Accountability Policy Forum has been published, and the recommendations derived from 26 sessions from teachers, administrators, researchers and educational policy experts are eye-opening.
The report is available to anyone who cares about improving practices and accountability for organizations working with at-risk youth and includes 10 key recommendations for federal and state policy-makers and local education-providers.
The next forum is scheduled for Nov. 15 to 17 in San Diego. Meanwhile, here are three vital findings from last year’s forum that apply to schools, districts and communities seeking to improve the opportunities for over-age and under-credited students:
Invest in information
States that have built data systems to track at-risk students have a head start — but any school, district or community can do more to serve these students simply by launching and maintaining more comprehensive student records that can be:
• utilized by teachers, parents and students to make educational decisions.
• scrubbed of personalized information for the purpose of policy-makers and community to better understand the range of challenges facing students and to help build targeted programs to address those challenges.
• used in re-engagement efforts by programs and districts who want to bring out-of-school youth back into the educational fold.
Adopt a flexible school day and calendar
No one in the at-risk student service community will be surprised to learn that experts have long recommended offering more programs with open-entry enrollment, which allows students to begin instruction at any point in time. In most schools and programs, though, we’re still a long way from that goal. But flexible calendars — and flexible school days — are vital for the continued engagement and re-engagement of students who have employment or family caretaking responsibilities, housing or transportation insecurity, short-term or chronic illnesses and injuries, or who have left school and wish to return.
Deliver a relevant curriculum
Reading, writing and arithmetic are as important today as ever before — but keeping students engaged means connecting fundamental skills to college and career-readiness in a way that is patently obvious to learners. Teaching and learning should focus on applying concepts and skills in real-world contexts, and should connect to the cultures, communities and aspirations of students.