School system considers plan to re-enroll dropouts

The Lafayette Parish School System may soon partner with a company that seeks dropouts and gives them a chance to finish high school anytime and anywhere.

The company, The American Academy’s NoDropouts program, works with school districts to bring dropouts back to school and provides educational and support services to those students, said Doug Bonner, the company’s K-12 district dropout advisor for Louisiana.

Bonner explained the company’s services to the Lafayette Parish School Board during its Wednesday meeting. Board members plan to vote on whether to partner with the company at their next meeting on Nov. 28.

The district provides a list to the company of its dropouts, and after that, “We do all the heavy lifting,” Bonner told board members.

The curriculum, instruction, materials and Internet-ready laptops are provided to students by the NoDropouts program, however, the students are enrolled as Lafayette Parish School System students. This enables the district to recapture the state per-pupil funding for that student, which is how districts pay for the program, Bonner said.

Districts have no up-front costs and the company only receives the state per-pupil funding if a student makes adequate progress, Bonner explained.

The performance indicators for payment are decided by the school district, he said.

“You’re only paying for success,” Bonner told board members.

The cost to the district is capped at the state’s per-pupil or Minimum Foundation Program (MFP) allocation of $3,895, he said.

On average, about 600 students drop out of school annually in Lafayette Parish before they earn their high school diploma, said Phyllis Landry, district director of academics.

Board member Tehmi Chassion questioned whether the district was already targeting these students.

“These kids are off our radar,” assistant superintendent Sandra Billeaudeau told Chassion. “They’ve been off our books so to speak. We’re trying to go out and get those children who have not successfully completed school. It’s important for our community and our socioeconomic growth.”

Board member Rae Trahan questioned whether students in the program could re-enroll in their high school once they caught up academically with their peers.

Bonner said the program enables students to re-enter school. He said the program is not designed to “pull students from school,” but to target those students disengaged from the school system.

If launched, the drop-out outreach program would be called: the “Lafayette Parish Will Graduate” program, Bonner said.

Bonner told Lafayette Parish board members that students in the program receive intense case management and are required to meet with a local advocate weekly. Tutoring services are also available 24 hours a day to accommodate students’ work and family schedules.

Bonner said the program launched in the state last year.

The company provides what many districts don’t have the financial or staff resources to do, said David Corona, schools superintendent of West Baton Rouge Parish.

“We did it primarily to put children in the hands of people who can give them a strong presence and support structure that they need to be successful,” Corona said.

At least two students in the West Baton Rouge school district have graduated through the program so far. The first graduate had dropped out of school to support his family, but was only a few months away from completing his diploma requirements, Corona said.

“That’s two more who wouldn’t have graduated,” Corona said.

St. Martin Parish school system joined the program this school year and about six students have signed on, said superintendent Richard Lavergne.

“The special counseling, special tutoring and individualized attention is what attracted us to this program,” Lavergne said. “The cost for us is no more than the MFP dollars. It’s worth every penny. We only pay for success. It requires the NoDropouts people to work really hard because they get paid on success, not failure.”

The program is also in Evangeline, Pointe Coupee, Ascension, St. John, St. James, Ouachita, Morehouse and Richland parishes, he said.