Recipe for success with dropouts

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Last school year, West Town Academy students went 20 for 24 on the GED, for a pass rate of over 80 percent. Here is the school’s recipe for success:

Small size. With about 50 students and a student-faculty ratio of 10 to 1, the school has a family atmosphere.

Full-day program. Unlike part-time GED courses for adults, West Town’s program for 17- to 21-year-olds offers a full day of classes plus high school-style activities like field trips, speakers and even a prom.

Truant retrieval. Students must call if they are going to be absent even one day. If they don’t call, teachers call them. If they still don’t respond, someone visits their home.

Mentoring. Teachers double as counselors. Some West Town students also have Quantum Mentors, advocates for at-risk youth sponsored by the Mayor’s Office of Employment and Training (MET). The mentors help students navigate bureaucratic waters: Public Aid, the court system, schools, etc.

Team spirit. Students take the GED as a group. Teachers help them register and drive them to faraway test sites.

College and career placement. Students visit colleges and take a weekly ACT prep class. Graduates who seek job training don’t have to look farther than down the hall. Greater West Town, the school’s parent organization, offers training in woodworking, and shipping and receiving to anyone with a diploma or GED. The program boasts a placement rate of over 90 percent.