Proceedings of The 2nd International Conference on New Approaches in Education
“This School Saved my Life”: How one Innovative Charter High School Succeeds with Dropout Recovery
Letitia Basford and Joe Lewis
In this article, the authors examine how one charter high school in the U.S. is successfully serving students who have not succeeded in the traditional school system and are therefore at risk of dropping out or being caught in the school-to-prison pipeline. The school-to-to-prison pipeline is a theoretical construct that explains how disproportionate disciplinary and exclusionary punishment of students of color ultimately pushes youth out of mainstream schools and into the criminal justice system (Basford & Lewis, 2018; Heitzig, 2016; Fuentes, 2011; Morris, 2016). Most research on the school-to-prison pipeline calls for preventive measures to be implemented in schools, such as employing culturally responsive teaching practices and correcting biased disciplinary and zero tolerance practices. However, little has been studied on how schools can work successfully with youth who have already experienced the school-to-to-prison pipeline–youth who have previously been pushed out of school, experienced juvenile detention, and/or mandated prison sentences. The authors respond to this void in the literature by describing the successful efforts of one school. The school is successful because of five key qualities: a casual, family-like atmosphere; a commitment to remaining small; creative responses to erratic attendance; extreme patience and flexibility in the classroom; and innovative, trade-focused programs. The authors examine each of these qualities in detail, and the central challenges the school faces as it seeks to serve students effectively. Finally, the paper describes an overarching model for serving adolescents who are at risk of dropping out– a philosophy and practice of pedagogical and institutional plasticity.
Keywords: alternative ways of teaching; adverse childhood experiences (ACEs); at-risk youth; charter schools; teaching to restless & disruptive pupils.