Harder works better

Most programs for drop-outs aim low, and miss. The Oregonian reports on a Portland program, Gateway to College, that sets high standards.

(Students are) required to read college-level books, complete every assignment, write term papers and attend class every day. They gain credits toward a two-year college degree while earning a high school diploma.

. . . A 2003 study of 22 dropout recovery programs in Portland found that most students quit in the first few months and that only 3 percent of students earned a high school diploma.

By contrast, 20 percent of students who enter Gateway to College earn diplomas.

The program’s director believes many drop-outs “long for structure.”

They skipped class, slacked off, didn’t do homework — because no one seemed to care that they did. At Gateway, officials crack down on every absence, withhold tests from those who miss a single assignment, make students pay tuition if they earn a D or an F. Students struggling with financial pressures, pregnancy or conflict at home don’t need coddling that focuses on those problems. Gateway advisers play to student strengths.

Gateway students get lots of attention, academic help and personal support. But the starting point is high expectations, high demands, no excuses, get it done.

The Gates Foundation is providing money to try the Gateway model in other cities.

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