ALBANY, Ga. - Drop Back In Academy Program Director Levi Williams is trying to get the word out: If you are a high school dropout between the ages of 16 and 21, give them a call.
The Drop Back In program serves students from their home school district (with a few exceptions) and requires only the credits actually needed for graduation. Students who may have had behavior issues in the past are welcome, as well as those needing special education or second-language assistance. For the student, the program is absolutely free.
"We see students who have dropped out of school and have exhausted all their other options," Williams said. "There really is no easy description of our typical student. They come in all races, looks and genders."
While the program is free to the student, the academy is a commercial enterprise that makes its money by taking 90 percent of the state's FTE (full-time enrollment) funding of approximately $3,500 per student. The school system, however, gets 10 percent and an improved dropout and graduation rate.
As Dougherty School Superintendent Joshua Murfree pointed out while the school board was debating the program, the system was not being paid for those students anyway.
The program uses the standards-based, interactive curriculum software Education2020, in addition to daily direct instruction. Education2020 is aligned to state and national standards.
Students also participate in regularly scheduled preparatory exercises for state- and district-mandated assessments.
Williams said the academy has already established three learning centers in the city: one in the Union Missionary Baptist Church annex, another in the First Mt. Olive annex and another in a storefront location.
"We've hired certified teachers to man the learning centers, and we also rely heavily on computer-based learning tools," Williams said. "All of these kids are behind, and we set up the individual programs depending on the students' needs."
The director added that the program has not set any goals toward numbers graduated.
"We want to make sure the students come in here and are successful and are moving forward with their lives," Williams said. "We are not a diploma mill, and we tell the kids this isn't going to happen overnight. They are going to have to work for their diplomas."