The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

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February 14, 2013

OLSON: Lincoln High School changes are meant to strengthen students’ success

CLINTON — There has been an outpouring of concern and anxiety with the district's impending decision on relocating our alternative education program from its present location on the Lincoln campus to a building that sits on the outside property of Clinton High School.

Lincoln campus began back in the late 1980s through the present day and has served our community and district for students who struggled with a traditional school setting.

Many of the students who were enrolled at this off-site high school campus may have had significant issues in their personal lives or felt more comfortable in a smaller setting.

It has not been unusual for a student who has been attending Lincoln to be financially independent, living on his/her own, working a full-time job, and also trying to attend school.  

Our current alternative program was developed to allow students to progress at the speed they determined by finishing a set of independent study materials based on the high school curricula in order to meet the standards for graduation. The staff who have worked in this building have been highly skilled in forming positive empathetic relationships which empower young people with the determination and interpersonal skills to succeed and overcome obstacles.

The issue for the district is not found in the goals of the program or the financial one to maintain it; the issue lies in the number of students who are attending and not obtaining the number of credits for graduation.

Historically, based on our enrollment records, only one in three students who enter our alternative program, will graduate from high school. This is not good enough for the students in our community.

National statistics regarding lifetime wages and educational attainment are really quite alarming for people who have attained less than a high school diploma. Statistics state that non-graduates will earn hundreds of thousands less than those with a high school diploma.

For our district, this decision comes down to modifying this program where the student determines the course of study that will help he or she succeed and graduate instead of creating a one-size fits all program and hoping that it will work for all students.

The one thing that I am certain of is that we can and must do better in seeing more students succeed and graduate from Clinton High School.

Deb Olson is the superintendent of schools with the Clinton School District.

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