The Huron Valley School District recently implemented changes to its alternative high school program to bolster the district’s GRAD 100 goal.
Harbor High School provides an opportunity for students to continue their education in a smaller, less-traditional program.
“We are implementing additional strategies to increase likelihood of student achievement and graduation rates; however, we are also maintaining current strategies as they are sound, as well,” said Principal Susan Gallagher. “We are trying to enhance what we offer with the intent of keeping more students engaged.”
According to Huron Valley Director of Community Relations and Fund Development Janet Roberts, over 1 million students in the U.S. don’t graduate from high school as scheduled. Although the district’s graduation rate is high, even one student dropping out of school is one too many.
“GRAD 100, which began last year, is our districtwide initiative to graduate 100 percent of our students with the skills necessary to succeed in the global workplace. Our goal is for each of our students to be successful,” Roberts said.
Based on Harbor’s first trimester results, 18 percent of students are struggling (not passing) while 82 percent are succeeding.
“The graduation rate is not as cut and dry as it seems,” Gallagher said. “We often have students who enter senior year with significant credit deficits, or as fifth-year seniors. Consequently, they will not graduate with their class.”
To mitigate graduation rates, the 18 percent struggling have been assigned teacher mentors who develop individualized plans.
For students with more serious reading challenges, Harbor now offers specialized support courses including direct reading and grammar instruction not typically offered at the high school level.
Data and research are used to determine programming, scheduling, instruction and support efforts. Last spring, students were surveyed on their career goals and other interests so that programming can be tailored to these areas.
“It should increase student achievement because it provides direct instruction in areas of weakness and capitalizes on students’ interests, strengths, and talents,” Gallagher said.
A student advisory board has been formed to ensure regular input from students on a variety of school issues, and a tutoring lab is now available.
Moreover, Light House, which was formerly known as SOAR, was redesigned to convert from an all online, partial-day program to a full-day program that provides instructors for most courses and an emphasis on transitioning into a larger setting.
Regular attendance is challenging for some students in alternative education. Therefore, the school implemented an attendance review board where students who are struggling to get to school meet and a plan is devised to assist them with overcoming obstacles.
“In most cases, at-risk youth experience difficulties in their lives that are not a typical part of childhood,” Gallagher said.
New programming also includes a cross-curricular infusion to merge two or more subject areas to increase student understanding of the relationships between subject areas. One example is a course that infuses art into geometry in a project-based framework.
At present, Harbor High School employs eight teachers. There are currently 134 students enrolled, compared to last year’s enrollment of 110.