New York’s Transfer High Schools Help Students Who Fall Behind

When high school students fall behind what happens to them? For many students, some of whom have fallen behind by as much as three years, graduating high school seems like an insurmountable challenge, and many students get lost in the school system. In fact, according to a February 2011 New York Daily News (NYDN) article, there were 106,000 struggling students deemed "overage and under-credited" in city schools last year. Just 15% of them will make it through high school. However, New York City (NYC) has taken an interesting approach to reach students who are most at-risk for high school dropout: transfer schools, where 53% of those overage and under-credited students will stay the course and graduate. Transfer schools are small, non-traditional high schools that serve over-age and under-credited students, including those who have previously dropped out of school. The schools, which host no more than 150 to 200 students, feature rigorous academics, as well as personalized learning environments, advisories, student supports, and a focus on future college and career opportunities. They are open to students ages 16 and older who have been enrolled in a NYC public school for at least a year, and only accept students who have been chronically absent or are years behind in their coursework. Community organizations, such as Good Shepherd Services and SCO Family of Services provide support to the schools in the form of staff and resources. Good Shepherd Services’ transfer high school model, which is based on more than 25 years of work with at-risk students in collaboration with the NYC Department of Education, integrates a rigorous, standards-based instructional setting with youth development practices that are flexible for the varying needs of the student and provide them with opportunities to form positive relationships with adults inside and outside the classroom. The schools are operated in collaboration with the NYC Department of Education and provide students with intensive support services they need to overcome personal roadblocks to earning a diploma. According to the NYDN article, a centerpiece of one school's success with the Good Shepherd model is its counselors, who have a caseload of 25 to 30 students instead of some 400 for guidance counselors in big high schools. The Assistant Principal of West Brooklyn High School, Gloria Rosario, said that personalized attention creates better results: "You don't want to overload your staff," Rosario said. "When I was a teacher, sometimes I would have the class do book work while I dealt with a girl who was crying in the hallway. I wasn't the best teacher on those days." Good Shepherd works with other NYC community-based organizations to help open additional schools based on their model.  For instance, at North Queens Community High School, SCO provides an extra 14 school-based staff members and contributes $1.1 million annually, including a grant for a work internship program from the NYC Department of Education Department. North Queens principal Winston McCarthy noted the impact of the program on his students: “Our kids feel a lot more cared for…They feel like, 'I can do this because I have an opportunity to talk about those other things and develop skills and tools to handle the things that may be really distracting in my life.” Additional Resources Note: This blog post was originally authored under the auspices of the National High School Center at the American Institutes for Research (AIR). The National High School Center’s blog, High School Matters, which ran until March 2013, provided an objective perspective on the latest research, issues, and events that affected high school improvement. The CCRS Center plans to continue relevant work originally developed under the National High School Center grant. National High School Center blog posts that pertain to CCRS Center issues are included on this website as a resource to our stakeholders.

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