SIKESTON - Some high school students would rather drop out than face the humiliation of not graduating with the rest of their class.
But a new program in the R-6 District is designed to give the students a way to solve their dilemma by preventing them from having to make the decision in the first place.
The After School Credit Recovery Program, a Safe Schools Grant-funded project, was modeled after a program developed by the Kelly School District. The project came as an answer to Missouri School Improvement Program concerns about the high drop out rate.
By participating in the program, students can gain half a credit by spending 40 hours on a subject after school. Senior High's Susan Nothdurft remembers starting as senior counselor last year and realizing there were about 10 students who were no longer on her list of seniors, but added to the list of juniors.
"They were not going to graduate with their class because they lacked enough credits," she explained. "The obvious and perhaps, in our estimation, easiest route would have been for them to come back to school for another semester this year and get their diploma in December. However, several talked to me about dropping out when faced with the prospect of not 'walking' with their class. To them, another five months of school seems like a lifetime."
Finding out more about the Credit Recovery Program from the Kelly School District, she and Principal Tom Williams set out to make it available to Sikeston Public Schools students.
"For whatever reason, attendance, attitude, financial burden, students get behind in their credits," Nothdurft said. "They develop the attitude that it is pointless to continue because they cannot complete the required 24 credits in four years. Most are too embarrassed to return for a fifth year of high school. Thus, they drop out. Some students opt for correspondence courses from MU, but that costs a minimum of $110 plus books per half credit."
To be eligible for the Credit Recovery Program, the student must have previously failed the course and be unable to complete the course or courses in a normal four-year plan due to the number of credits still required.
Some may enroll in the program if they have completed four years of high school and still require credits for graduation. The principal must approve eligibility and the student must provide his own transportation.
"This program was a natural outgrowth of the after school computer lab already being manned from 3:15-5 p.m. four days a week by career ladder teachers," noted Nothdurft. "Through Dr. Ron James, we were able to use some software which enabled the students to work independently on English, math, history or science. So, we were able to accomplish this without additional cost to the district."
Nothdurft said the success of the program can be seen in the students' achievements. Last year, as a result of the program, she reported 10 students graduated who otherwise would not have. Eight of them received half a credit and two students earned one credit each.
Three students who had dropped out of high school returned after participating in the program and one has returned as a senior this year.
Counselors are currently identifying students who will not have enough credits to graduate within four years. Nothdurft estimates having at least 20 students working on the program throughout the year.
"This program is very important to our district because it could be the light at the end of a long tunnel for the 5 percent of our students who may consider dropping out. With a timely graduation in store, perhaps those considering dropping out their sophomore or junior year will continue attending school.
"Based on the feedback from last year's students, they were overjoyed to walk at graduation with their class or to receive credit. It is truly rewarding to see student accomplishment. It is conversely distressing to see them give up because of the hurdles they must overcome."
For more information on the Credit Recovery Program contact Nothdurft at 472-8856.