Calcasieu Schools cut dropout rate with special academy - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Calcasieu Schools cut dropout rate with special academy

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) -

It's that time of year when students move their tassels at high school graduation. Unfortunately, thousands of students across the country drop out before they ever get handed a diploma.

Many of those student have Specific Learning Disabilities (SLD). A recent study reveals South Carolina has the highest SLD dropout rate at 33 percent but the Bayou State isn't far behind at 31 percent. Calcasieu Parish comes in lower than the state average at 23.7 percent, which is due in part to the Simon Youth Academy.

"Some kids do well here because they can work at their own pace. There's no pressure. They don't feel silly asking questions," said Jennifer Gorman, Academy Coordinator. "It's just a more comfortable environment."

These classrooms are in the back of the Prien Lake Mall and target students who may otherwise not be in class. Some of those taking classes at SYA have children of their own, are homeless, or have severe attention disorders that make a regular classroom setting very difficult. Those students are recommended to the program by counselors and principals throughout Calcasieu Parish, and are given a unique opportunity.

"They get a lot of one-on-one. Our program is virtual; they can do it at home. They call us over the phone," said Gorman, "Some student can only do one course at a time. Some can do six at a time."

Students can also work at their own pace. For instance, a student could dedicate an entire month to finishing a math course, or spend each day on a different subject. 

"We do what meets their needs, as long as they do it within the academic year," said Gorman.

These academies can be found nationwide, but Lake Charles is home to the only SYA in Louisiana.

Gorman says she has only been at the academy for two years, but can already see positive results.

"Last year, we had 36 graduates. That's a 100 percent graduation rate. People that started with us, we got them graduated."

The 2017 class at Simon Youth is preparing for their big day later this month, where 40 graduates will earn their diplomas.

Copyright 2017 KPLC. All rights reserved.

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