Online Courses in Some Kansas High Schools to Target Potential Drop-Outs

In March 2011 America's Promise Alliance, a foundation dedicated to improving the lives of children, reported at a Washington, DC summit that one out of every four public school students will drop out before graduating high school. This sobering statistic leaves school districts across the country wondering what they can do to keep students in attendance. One such district in Lawrence, Kansas believes it may have found a solution.

By Harrison Howe


'The Need is There'

Can a flexible and less-structured online curriculum help to keep some students in school? For a school district that sees nearly 15% of its students not graduate, Lawrence, Kansas is investing money in hopes that the answer to that question is yes.

In fall 2011, Lawrence and Free State high schools will see online courses added for at-risk students. The school district is spending $70,000 for 100 software licenses which will be, according to, 'tacked onto' the district's existing Diploma Completion Program. That program, begun six years ago, allows those 18 years and older to take online courses at off-campus locations in order to earn a high school diploma from one of three Lawrence high schools. In 2010, the program helped 36 adults and eight high-schoolers obtain diplomas.

The new licenses will for the first time be used on high school computers. Instead of working on computers at the Adult Education Center, as currently required, students in this new system can go to one of the two high schools to access the courses. Unlike the current Diploma Completion Program, which is generally for adults and for students whose classes have already graduated, the new program targets those still in school. It also opens the door for more than ten students to participate, which is the number of students who have been able to enroll in the Diploma Completion Program in the past.

Many hope the success of the Diploma Completion Program can carry over into the schools. In June, Sharen Steele, the director of the new Adult Education Center, told, 'The need is there. We really can't continue to look at education in the same exact way we've always looked at it. We have to look at alternatives.'

Details for the in-school program for potential drop-outs are still being worked out, and exactly who will be eligible to enroll in the program is still being determined. For now, it's being treated as a 'field test' for the 2011-12 school year.

If the district sees their current 85.8% graduation rate rise, it will surely be a program officials will consider continuing.

Find out if high schools are doing all they need to do to prepare students for college and work.

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