American School Board Journal, July 1998, p. 24<
In rural Louisiana, a new kind of school has emerged for teaching children and young adults who had either dropped out or been expelled from traditional classroomsa school that has technology at its core.
Currently there are 120 students in the program, whose curriculum is based on 35 networked computers and lets students work on their own and at their own pace. The majority of the students are in grades 7-12, but there are adults over the age of 20 who comprise 30 percent of the enrollment.
The program has been funded through several gifts totaling a quarter of a million dollars from a local plastics manufacturer which had located to the school’s area but was having trouble finding labor that met minimal standards for assembly-line work; $100,000 came from local money. The rural school district contracted with San Diego’s Invent Learning to acquire computers and software on a lease-to-own basis. The instructional software determines a particular student’s skill-level in math and reading through a series of computerized pretests, and then works the student through lessons to overcome their deficiencies. Another advantage to the system is that student can work individually on the computer without the peer pressure the usually accompanies a large classroom learning environment.
So far, 20 students from the School of Hope have earned their GED; others have successfully moved on to entry-level jobs at fast-food restaurants, in farming, as medical assistants, and in sales.
The computer-driven curriculum in this Louisiana program has also drawn the attention of other school districts across the country who are struggling with large percentages of at-risk and hard-to-reach students.