Oak Harbor School District launches dropout outreach program

Oak Harbor School District has started a dropout outreach program called iGrad Academy in efforts to meet their on-time graduation goal.

This program, done in partnership with an organization called Graduation Alliance, reaches out to former students ages 16-21 who are considered dropouts by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction and to get back on track to graduate.

“Their first goal is just to reach out to students who have dropped out and see if we can get them reengaged in our regular school program,” said the district’s superintendent, Lance Gibbon.

He said that if traditional high school doesn’t suit students, they are considered for the  Midway program.”

Failing either of those options, iGrad Academy offers an online alternative allowing the young people to complete their education for their high school diploma.

Gibbon said that the school board approved iGrad Academy only at the beginning of 2014, and the new school has only been open since the spring semester. Already, 27 students on the list of 200 have enrolled in iGrad Academy, according to a report given to the school board by Karst Brandsma, the interim assistant superintendent.

Ray Cone, associate principal at Oak Harbor High School, said 13 students have already completed at least one credit.

Cone provides administrative support and oversight from the school district for iGrad Academy. He said that students enrolled in iGrad “basically take one class at a time.” They are each provided a laptop and, when necessary, a local advocate, an academic advocate, a program principal through Graduation Alliance and access to 24-hour tutors.

According to Cone, the majority of the students enrolled in iGrad Academy at this time dropped out at the end of their junior year or during their senior year. They are, on average, about between five and eight credits shy of earning their degree.

Cone said these students usually chose to drop out because they fall behind in their coursework or have social issues.

In some cases, life events such as family problems or getting in trouble with the law has impeded a student’s education.

“This is an opportunity to move on,” Cone said, “instead of being just one more statistic.”

According to Gibbon, the graduation rate for the high school is at 80 percent, meaning that of a class of about 400 students, about 80 aren’t graduating on time. Graduation Alliance has a success rate of about 30 percent, according to Gibbon.

“That’s 30 percent that weren’t being reached at all before,” he said.

“What they (Graduation Alliance) have shown is that students that progress and get through at least one and usually two courses in the first 60 days will stay with the program,” Cone said, “and they’re 80-plus percent successful in helping students graduate after that point.”

Because iGrad Academy is a school that specifically serves students who have dropped out, said Gibbon, there is more flexibility to help students than virtual academies and other types of online schools.

“One of the key things is their progress is tracked monthly by these advocates and they go year round,” said Cone.

Cone said that one of the reasons why the school district chose Graduation Alliance to partner with is because — though the program is designed for students ages 16-21 — if a student is progressing through the program and ages out, the organization “still will support them until they graduate.”

“I think it’s a big step forward for us, and we’re excited to see how it can benefit our students,” Gibbon said.

Because iGrad Academy is technically a school within the district, students who have dropped out need to be residing within the district to take part, according to Cone. He added that if they moved to another district in the country that has partnered with Graduation Alliance, they could work within that district to earn their diploma. Graduation Alliance has programs all throughout the country, according to their website,

Cone said that iGrad Academy offers one last opportunity for those people who’ve dropped out of school.

“It opens a lot of doors for whatever path they choose.”


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