Helping Students Transition Back to School from Alternative Schools

Monday, April 29, 2013 -- Scott Lobdell

In the State of Florida, a new legislative session is seeing a lot of action pertaining to virtual education. One bill, HB 441, is taking on Juvenile Justice Education Programs. The bill addresses two significant factors that determine student success in the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) facilities.  The first component is online education.  The proposed legislation would help DJJ sites deliver virtual courses that students need for graduation and that might not otherwise be offered at the sites.  The second component involves plans for transitioning students back to regular coursework.  This plan solves a big issue for students. Students will now have a specific plan allowing them to work their way back into their regular schools without the complications they have experienced in the past.         

Too many students are sent back to their home schools without the proper time to adjust. They go back into classes and find themselves falling behind or in a class that is doing something completely different from what they were doing at the alternative site. Without a proper transition plan, students experience a sense of failure right from the re-start of their education. Many students end up back at the alternative site or dropping out of school entirely. A transition plan that has complete buy-in from the district, the alternative site, and the schools in the district can break this cycle of failure for students and place them on a path to success. Breaking this cycle is crucial and it is time for states to institute transition plans for all alternative school students.

A transition plan is great, but how can it be done cost-effectively? The answer is through online schools. An online school provides the alternative school with all the courses and remediation needed for the students to get back on track for graduation. An online school also has the certified, highly qualified teachers the alternative school needs for reporting purposes. No longer will the alternative education teacher have to teach multiple subjects to multiple students who are all at different levels. Online school frees up the alternative education teacher to become a mentor, coach,  tutor, and a cheerleader for the students and allows students to work their own pace with the help of the online teacher. Online schools can help students recover credit quicker and give them hope of graduating.

Online courses make transition plans simple because they can go anywhere the student goes. The school that the student returns to would need to agree to schedule time in a lab for the student to ease back into regular life. The students continue in the online classes they were working on and earn credit. At the end of the semester, the student can then easily move over to a regular schedule at their home school site. If the home school site wants, it can offer its own online program and allow transitioning students to continue to recover credit and get back on track for graduation. This approach also helps the school accomplish its goal of getting all students on track to graduate with their cohort.

It is nice to see that Florida is recognizing the importance of online education and transition plans for DJJ students. It is a great time in education with all these choices that allow education professionals to think outside the box. Thanks to online education, now we can truly try to leave no child behind. 

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