Redmond seniors will graduate on time with extra support

New approach gives at-risk students a second chance at success

By Kailey Fisicaro, The Bulletin, @kaileyfisicaro

Juniors and seniors in the Redmond School District who are a year or more behind now have more options — and support — when it comes to catching up on credits.

This school year, the district brought students who are a year or more behind on credits to Redmond High School, instead of sending them to classes at the Brown Education Center. With extra support at Redmond High School, which started the program last fall, 14 seniors who otherwise wouldn’t graduate on time next month are back on track, according to the high school’s principal, Paul Nolan.

The support, a kind of credit recovery program, has two teachers, a student success coordinator and a counselor. The student success coordinator helps students with academic and emotional support, but they’re there to help individualize the plan for each student, Nolan said. The student success coordinator does the “in-take” for students to get them set up with classes, and also works with them on getting their GED diplomas.

There are GED classes, but the students may also take traditional classes like their peers.

“Really, it’s an education option at Redmond High School,” Nolan said. “It provides supports beyond what we do for everybody else.”

Students in the program may already live on their own, or have a job and can’t come to school every day.

Students who are expelled still attend classes at Brown Education Center, but the Redmond School District wanted to give students who have simply fallen behind another chance at being a part of a traditional high school community.

Before this school year, principals and counselors gathered to identify students who could benefit from the extra support. About 100 students took part during the 2016-17 academic year.

Instead of receiving an alternative education placement at the Brown Education Center, those 100 students worked with counselors and other staffers to figure out the best schedule and approach to catch up.

“We work with them individually, pairing online classes and brick and mortar classes,” said Dave Burke, director of secondary education with the Redmond School District.

On the Redmond High campus, children are not singled out from the rest of the student body — which is the whole point of bringing the students back from the Brown Education Center. There is a credit recovery classroom that works only with those 100 children, but most of the students also attend other classes throughout the day, including career and technical education classes, to keep them interested in coming to school.

“It’s still not isolated, but they might not do as well in a big school setting,” Burke said of there being a credit recovery classroom.

The classroom provides a sense of community for students who have not done well so far in a traditional school setting.

“The principal is really doing an amazing job making sure they feel at home and welcome and they don’t feel like anything other than a Redmond High School kid,” Burke said.

The main goal is to get students to pass their GED or to graduate.

“What those kids need is to feel included in the community,” Burke said. “What we’re trying to do is give them something different while keeping them included.”

The school district isn’t expecting this first year of bringing alternative-education students back to Redmond High to affect its graduation rate — which increased dramatically from the 2014-15 school year to the 2015-16 school year, from 70.51 percent to 79.14. But eventually, the expectation is this new approach will help move the needle.

Although helping 14 seniors to catch up may not sound like a lot, Nolan is happy with the number.

“When your goal is 100 percent graduation, every kid counts,” he said.

Burke, too, said at the district level, they’re not looking only at the data — at least not in the first few years of implementation.

“What we’re trying to do is not label our success on one number,” Burke said. “I’d give a lot of credit to (Superintendent) Mike McIntosh and our district team, and our principals, frankly — it takes leadership from every level.”

The district’s other high school, Ridgeview, is also offering credit recovery options to students, but if there are juniors or seniors one year or more behind, they can transfer to Redmond High, since the district is focusing on building more robust support there.

“Every kid deserves a chance to graduate from high school, and every kid needs something different,” Nolan said. “This is one way we’re helping our most at-risk kids to graduate.”

Students working on recovering credits are like their peers but may have faced more difficulties in their lives, Nolan said.

But already, the changes teachers and staff have seen in students participating are clear.

“It’s amazing when you see how their demeanor towards school, to themselves and to others changes,” Nolan said.

— Reporter: 541-383-0325,