For Christine W., freshman year of high school was an ordeal. The same students who bullied her in middle school were at her new high school. “The idea of walking through those gates gave me so much anxiety,” she says. “I hated school.” Unable to focus or dedicate herself to her schoolwork, she began to fail and eventually just dropped out.

There are many reasons students drop out of high school. Poverty, pregnancy, homelessness, bullying or just losing interest can cause students to skip class.

Learn4Life, a network of free, nonprofit public charter high schools, takes a dynamic approach to re-engage students. The average student who enrolls in Learn4Life has been out of school for 11.4 weeks. Through personalized learning, mentoring and job skills training, the program has been highly successful in re-engaging dropouts and keeping them in school. Here’s how:

1. Deal with issues outside the classroom. Whether it’s counseling to help with issues they’re facing or mentoring to build confidence, helping students deal with life gives them stability to succeed.

2. Meet students where they are. Not every student is at the same emotional, academic or mental level as their peers. Through one-on-one attention and personalized instruction, students can get help where they most need it.

3. Remove obstacles to learning. Basics like transportation, needing to work or childcare can prevent students from returning to school. Flexible schedules and connecting them with community partners for essential resources can make a big difference in their ability to learn.

4. Make them feel safe. Creating a respectful and safe place to learn is essential for removing social anxieties and fears that can hinder learning.

5. Let them see a future. Through job skills training programs, students can prepare for a future beyond a diploma. As a Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) partner, Learn4Life offers courses in career exploration and work-readiness skills.

The effectiveness of Learn4Life’s approach is that 90% of students who enroll are successful by either graduating with Learn4Life or returning to their previous school – after catching up on credits – and graduating with their peers.

Written By:
Ann Abajian
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