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The Value of Support in Alternative Education

  • Joanna
  • April 27, 2022

At Graduation Alliance, helping high school dropouts and at-risk students get back on track to graduation is at the heart of what we do. We provide the pathway to an accredited high school diploma — a 100% online curriculum. But an effective dropout recovery program must do more than provide the pathway. We also provide guardrails — a multi-tiered system of supports — to keep students on track.

Students in a Graduation Alliance program are supported by three key figures:

  • Teachers
  • Academic Coaches
  • Local Advocates

They also receive support from Enrollment Counselors, 24/7 virtual tutors, and an IT support team. This multi-tiered system of supports helps students navigate academic and social-emotional challenges so they can focus on their education.

Rebuilding trust in school support systems

One of the fears with a 100% online alternative program is isolation due to social disconnection. When students are learning in a traditional classroom, they are surrounded by peers and have face-to-face interactions with teachers and support staff every day.

Many research studies indicate that students’ social “disconnect” from schools cannot be ignored in attempting to re-engage and sustain student participation in academic work — face-to-face interaction is key to student success (Stout, 2009). However, the dichotomy is that many students leave school in the first place because of a social-emotional disconnect (Lee, 2003; Martin, 2006; Knesting, 2008).

Graduation Alliance’s approach helps students rebuild their trust and sense of belonging in school by providing personalized support and opportunities for building trust with their support team and other students in the program.

When students first enroll in a Graduation Alliance program, they complete an assessment to help our team determine their specific reasons for dropping out, life circumstances that might complicate their completion of high school, and the support mechanisms they may have available in their personal lives.

Using this information, Academic Coaches create personalized education plans for their students that will help them earn the credits they need to graduate from high school. Additionally, Local Advocates identify various supports that could help the student work through some of the challenges they’re facing, including (but not limited to) mental health resources and community food banks.

Rebuilding trust is important because it leads to engagement — students are more likely to engage with their support team if they trust them. And student engagement is considered crucial to an effective dropout recovery program because student engagement leads to academic success and program completion (Stout, 2009).

Pouring and Smoothing Concrete
Fostering engagement through support

When students start taking online classes through Graduation Alliance, they’re actively involved in their learning environment — There is nothing passive about what we do. Academic Coaches work with students remotely and help them stay on track. They check in with students weekly by phone, video call, or text to see if there is anything the student needs to complete their assignments for the week and continue onward.

Local Advocates are familiar with the community where their students live and host two types of in-person meet-ups each week, academic and social. During academic meet-ups, students have the opportunity to work on homework and meet one-on-one with their Local Advocate to discuss any social-emotional barriers they may be facing that week. It’s similar to a study hall and provides students with a safe place to work on schoolwork or ask for help if they need it.

Social meet-ups offer students an opportunity to meet other students in their school’s Graduation Alliance program and give them some of that face-to-face interaction that is integral to the educational experience. For a recent meetup, students shared “pie in the park” with their Local Advocate.

At Graduation Alliance, we want to keep students in your district. When they enroll in the Gradution Alliance dropout recovery program, they’re still a student in your district and will graduate with a diploma from their local high school. Many of our students use the Graduation Alliance program to get back on their feet and will actually go back to in-person school and finish high school alongside their peers. Other students stick with Graduation Alliance through graduation because their circumstances demanded an alternative to traditional schooling.

In either case, our support system works hard to support students — no matter how long they’re with us. Our multi-tiered system of supports helps students regain trust in school support systems, resulting in engagement and, ideally, graduation.

Based on a 2021 study by Mission Measurement, Graduation Alliance’s Dropout Recovery program has significantly outperformed the national benchmark for dropout recovery programs established by the Impact Genome Project on both efficacy and cost per outcome, providing 27% more outcomes for 33% less cost.

For more information about our dropout recovery program, please fill out our request for information form.

Works Cited
Knesting, K. (2008). Students at risk for school dropout: supporting their persistence. Preventing School Failure, 52(4), 3-10.

Lee, V. E., & Burkam, D. T. (2003). Dropping out of high school: the role of school organization and structure. American Educational Research Journal, 40(2), 353-393.

Martin, N., & Halperin, S. (2006). Whatever it takes: how twelve communities are reconnecting out-of-school youth. Washington, D.C.: American Youth Policy Forum.