By Stephanie Espinoza, May 21, 2012
Stephanie Espinoza is a fellow with New America Media’s Youth Education Fellowship. The fellowship is a six-month long program for youth reporters aged 16-24 on education reporting. It is sponsored by the California Education Policy Fund.
I recently visited Nueva Continuation School in South Kern County, in the rural community of Lamont. The children’s center there once provided childcare for teen parents but it was eliminated a few years ago due to lack of funding. The loss has made it especially difficult for student-parents without the financial mean
s to obtain care elsewhere to remain in school.
A new study from researchers at UC Berkeley and Stanford finds that such trends are not unique to Lamont. Continuation schools across the state are in fact failing to provide the academic and support services needed to keep struggling students in school.
According to Ed Source Extra, which reported on the study’s findings, there are nearly 500 continuation schools in California aimed at helping students who are considered at risk of not graduating at the normal pace. Often, however, a number of such students end up slipping through the cracks.
Part of the problem, notes the report, is that continuation schools are viewed as either an alternative route to a high school diploma or as a “dumping ground” for the “bad” kids. As a result, there is little in the way of guidelines governing how students are placed into these alternative schools. Students with beha
vioral problems, for instance, end up in continuation schools when instead they should be placed in schools or institutions more equipped to handle their needs.
Another problem is the lack of full day instruction at a number of schools because the state only offers reimbursement for half-day instruction. While this works for students who have to work part time, it means that everyone misses out on much needed instruction time.
This is not to say there are not continuation schools doing an exemplary job in keeping students on the path to success. But for those that aren’t, the report includes recommendations for improving performance. These include extending the four-year graduation track to five or six years, requiring school districts to set a clear procedure for identifying students who enroll in a continuation school, and increasing student support services.