Washington state school-within-a-school helps students cross the stage

Kids who drop out of school face some pretty dire consequences, but there are programs that are helping more students cross the stage.

In Tacoma, an innovative program is closing achievement gaps and setting more students on the pathway to success, according to a column in The Columbian from Don Brunell, president of the Association of Washington Business, Washington state's chamber of commerce.

In 2007, only 17 percent of incoming freshmen at Lincoln High School in Tacoma met middle school math standards and only 34 percent met reading standards.

To remedy the situation, Tacoma Public Schools created The Lincoln Center, basically a school within a school. It extended the school day from 7:35 a.m. to 5 p.m. and had students attend school on Saturday twice monthly and enroll in summer school, increasing the instruction hours by 540.

Within a single semester, the achievement gap between white students and students of color had disappeared. Fast forward five years, and 90 percent of the 2012 class is on track to graduate compared with only 60 percent of their peers at Lincoln High School

“We need that kind of flexibility and innovation if we are to improve the value of public education,” Brunell wrote.

While programs that increase the number of hours students must attend school won’t work for all students who are at-risk of dropping out, it does help those who have struggled in earlier grades and need help getting to the same levels as their peers. Programs like The Lincoln Center serve students well and help students get the best start possible as adults.

What do you think about such programs? Does your school, district or state have a similar program? Do you think it’s a good use of limited resources to increase the number of instruction hours students receive?