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Alternatives for at-risk students show promise

October 19, 2005|by KAREN HANNA

karenh@herald-mail.com

For a student who met with counselor Budd Moore recently, completing Washington County's Evening High School program is as much an achievement as finishing a doctorate.

The girl, who struggled with attendance problems at her home school, is one of the faces of the county's successful efforts to help at-risk students, Moore said.

"And, I look forward to seeing her graduate in June," Moore told the Board of Education during a presentation Tuesday about alternative programs.

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According to the Maryland State Department of Education, the Washington County Public Schools' dropout rate has fallen from 5.55 percent in 2000 to 1.87 percent last school year.

That is due to alternative programs, such as Antietam Academy, Family Center and Evening High School; dropout prevention and behavior specialists; and better case management, Moore and other school officials told the board.

According to Carol Costello, coordinator of alternative programs, dropout prevention specialists at 16 schools are working with 278 middle- and high-school students considered at risk for quitting school. The number of students is likely to grow, Costello said.

Participation in the Family Center, Evening High School and Antietam Academy is increasing, school officials said. This semester, Evening High School offers 18 courses, Moore said.

"These teachers possess very unique skills, and tons and tons of patience to work with these kids," Moore said.

Robert T. "Bo" Myers, executive director for secondary school administration, said the school system continues to explore ways to help at-risk students.

According to Myers, the school system always is looking for people from the community to help mentor students. Other possibilities for future programs include schools within schools, student-to-student mentoring and the implementation of ideas generated by the Minority Achievement Task Force, which is looking at ways to eliminate achievement gaps among different groups of students.

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