Peoria's District 150 currently has five alternative schools: The Developmental Center; Greeley Regional Safe School; Robert A. Jamieson School; Knoxville Center for Student Success and the Adult Education Center. The average student who enrolls in an alternative school faces steep odds to graduating. Low skills, tough lives and scarce resources at schools are big barriers.
Second chance for dropouts
by Sarah Karp, October, 2009
On day two of her second try at high school, Brianna Gibson is full of resolve. In a windowless classroom with a world map on the wall and history books on the shelves, the young woman slides into a desk, offers up a smile and says she thinks that the small alternative school she chose is going to be a good experience.
The teachers seem nice, she says. They would take time to explain assignments, something the teachers at her former high school didn’t seem to want to do. Brianna adds that she doesn’t know many of the other students, but in her mind, that’s a plus. Being anonymous should keep her from getting into fights and into trouble.
“I won’t get caught up,” Brianna explains. She was suspended from Clemente High in Humboldt Park last year for fighting, and never returned.
But for all her confidence, Brianna’s expectations signal trouble ahead. At 17, she’s antsy to move on from high school and plans to enroll in evening, Saturday, online and summer courses in an attempt to graduate within a year.
“One year,” she insists. “I guess I would do two if I absolutely had to. But I can’t be here for three. No way.”
Yet Brianna arrived in September at CCA Academy, one of 22 alternative schools operated by Youth Connections Charter, with only one credit. She needs to earn at least 21 to get a diploma—an unrealistic goal, given that most high school students earn about six credits a year. (CCA was formerly called Community Christian Alternative, but has no religious affiliation.)
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