Alternative in works for Rantoul students behind in credits

Alternative in works for Rantoul students behind in credits

RANTOUL – Rantoul Township High School officials plan to open an alternative high school this fall for students who need to make up credits.

The school board this week approved the plan to address a graduation rate, 67.9 percent, and test scores that don't please district or state officials. Superintendent David Requa said the project, named Eagle Academy, will be housed at a location separate from the high school. He's looking for that location and for teachers to work there.

Requa said the program will start with 30 students who will have completed at least a year at the high school who are losing credits for a wide variety of reasons, including medical, family or work commitments.

"At the beginning of the year we started brainstorming about improving things like graduation rates. Teachers came up with more than 200 ideas, and we prioritized," he said. "Alternative education and credit recovery programs was one of three major areas."

He said a committee headed by Dean Emily Weidener and Sandy Davis, director of student services, conducted research about successful programs, visited sites and drew up a plan.

"There will be an application process for students referred by teachers, counselors, parents or the students themselves," Requa said. "The applications will be reviewed by a committee and the students will be interviewed. The main qualification will be that they're behind enough in credits so they're in danger of not graduating with their class."

The screening and interview process will be to pick students who are motivated, a good match for the program.

"There are students with needs we're not meeting," Weidener said. "There are students with children, students considered to be homeless who need to work, students who have hardships or medical situations."

We need to give them a different option, an opportunity to take classes at an accelerated schedule."

The program will include mentoring and teachers will be assigned to only 10 or 12 students so they can give them a lot of personal help. A wide variety of language, math, science and social studies classes will also be available online.

Weidener said Rantoul students aren't meeting state goals for math achievement or for graduation rate, so the school failed to make adequate yearly progress in 2006. The school's dropout rate, 5.1 percent, exceeded the state's 3.5 average and its chronic truancy rate, 5.5 percent, also exceeded the state 2.2 percent average.

Weidener and Requa said the alternative education program would help those trends.

"We've had excellent teacher support from the beginning," Weidener said. "We're excited about this."

She said Rantoul tried a similar program in the 1990s, but it relied on grant funding, and when that ended so did the program.

The school board has approved program costs expected to be about $250,000.

In other business, the board elected Marla Deem to be its new president, Janet Brotherton vice president and Marilyn Reale to be secretary.

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