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January 7th, 2013
Online classes target high school dropouts
Arizona district is the latest to turn to an online education program to boost graduation rates
Rothschild and Isquierdo, who sits on the Mayor’s Education Task Force, said they will work with other school districts to recruit youths for the program.
Isquierdo said GradLink has the support of the Pima County Superintendents Collaborative.
GradLink, which is open to students living in surrounding school districts, is based at Sunnyside’s alternative high school campus, STAR Academic Center.
The district hopes to graduate GradLink students by this summer, Isquierdo said.
Isquierdo said eligible students must have:
• Dropped out of high school within the last two years.
• Be ages 17 to 21.
• Need up to five credits to graduate.
• Passed at least two portions of the AIMS exam, Arizona’s high-stakes state assessment.
The program would provide students with a free, loaner laptop computer, and students would take their classes online at their own pace, Isquierdo said.
Students would have online access to curriculum, teachers, and staff, or they could learn online in a classroom setting, Isquierdo said.
He also said GradLink could also help undocumented youths who qualify for the federal government’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
Isquierdo said there are no startup costs associated with GradLink, because the district is refurbishing computers it has for the students; it has teachers and staffers who can handle the additional students; and a company called FlipSwitch is offering the internet service at no cost.
FlipSwitch is a service that assists schools in creating and managing online learning programs.
If the district enrolls the 100 part-time students this spring, it would receive about $3,000 in funding per student from the state, Isquierdo said.
Sunnyside’s GradLink is the latest online education program to reach out to high school dropouts in an effort to boost graduation rates.
Last August, Colorado’s Boulder Valley School District became one of three districts to partner with Colorado Youth for a Change on a web-based pilot program, Drop In Colorado, that encourages high school dropouts and those who know them to make contact via text messages.
If students aren’t getting what they need at their “home” high school, the Boulder Valley district can offer an alternative program at its Arapahoe campus or an online education program that gives students more flexibility, officials said.
Copyright (c) 2013, The Arizona Daily Star (Tucson, Ariz.), with additional reporting from eSchool Media. Visit The Arizona Daily Star online at www.azstarnet.com. Distributed by MCT Information Services.