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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

‘Last-chance’ schools 

“Last-chance” schools are providing alternatives to troubled students, writes Natalie Gross for the Hechinger Report. Many use self-paced, competency-based learning, restorative justice and social-emotional learning.

Rocheli Burgos dropped out of school in 2011 after giving birth to her son. She didn’t have enough credits pass ninth grade. “She was 17, battling severe depression and dealing with a fallout with her family that would soon leave her homeless,” writes Gross.

At the Boston Day and Evening Academy (BDEA), Burgos found a curriculum that made it possible to take breaks and start where she left off, so she wouldn’t have to repeat an entire class when her son’s long hospital stays for chronic asthma meant missing a month or two of school. She met teachers who checked in with her on the weekends to make sure she was doing OK — and not just academically. Soon she began to thrive. . . . As part of BDEA’s competency-based approach, all new students take a trimester-long course in which they study math, English language arts and science together. Teachers determine how much the students know about each subject, on a scale from “highly competent” to “not yet competent.” They are then placed in courses that match their skill levels — regardless of age or whatever letter grades they earned in the subjects at their previous schools.

Sixty-five percent of students earn a high school diploma or GED, say officials at the Roxbury charter school.

Nearly all BDEA students, who range in age from 16 to 23, come from low-income families, writes Gross. “Half self-identify as having a mental illness and about a third have experienced significant trauma during childhood.”

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