School Board approves new partnership to assist with dropout recovery
School Board approves new partnership to assist with dropout recovery
Posted on 05/15/2017
At their April 3, 2017 school board meeting directors approved a new partnership supporting young adults wishing to return to their studies and earn a high school diploma. As a result, the district is now working with the Graduation Alliance, a vendor that assists with dropout recovery efforts.

Puyallup School District is home to nearly 23,000 students in 32 school buildings including three comprehensive high schools and one alternative school. In addition, the district is in partnership with Puyallup Digital Learning which provides a way for students to take classes over the Internet, learning at their own pace, on their own schedule, and primarily, in their own environment. These programs are designed as a possible solution for students up to age 21.

For adults looking to return to school, it can be more complicated. “Typically, when an individual passes the high school funding age, the opportunity to get a high school diploma leaves with them,” says Rebekah Richards, chief academic officer and co-founder of the Graduation Alliance. This is a population requiring a different set of strategies.

Graduation Alliance isn’t a traditional high school dropout program. The program provides the support of local mentors and the flexibility of online classes to create learning environments that meet the complex needs of students who have left school without a diploma.

The re-engagement team tracks down former students and invites them to return to their studies. Resiliency assessments are administered to determine and address social obstacles that previously prevented academic success. An integrated learning plan is crafted with a tiered intervention program in place to ensure students are moving toward graduation. Students showing progress are rewarded with increased access on laptops provided by the Graduation Alliance program.

The district only pays for students who are making defined academic progress. "Similar to Running Start, the Graduation Alliance will receive 93 percent of the full time equivalency (FTE) for each student," say Chief Instructional Leadership Officer Vince Pecchia. "We expect to receive up to seven percent of the remaining FTE."

Introduced by School Board Director Kathy Yang, the Graduation Alliance will provide another layer of support for members of our community wishing to earn a diploma. “We have Puyallup Digital Learning,” says Yang, “but there are kids out there who are now young adults who don’t have a stable home and food while they are trying to work. Returning students will have an adviser to help them meet basic needs so they can get an education. Graduation Alliance will help them navigate to receive resources and provide tutors that can meet their schedules.”

Puyallup School District is graduating more students than ever before. Four- and Five-year graduation rates are the highest they have ever been at 89.6 percent and 90.9 percent respectively. With the Graduation Alliance, the district hopes to provide students of all ages the resources, support and flexibility they need to reach their educational goals and prepare for their next phase of life.