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Shelby County Public Schools is hoping to jumpstart the careers of students who jumped out of school a little too early.
The district will begin a pilot program on Jan. 3 that will help students who dropped out of school before graduating finally earn their diplomas.
This program differs from the General Equivalency Diploma (GED) program in that students actually earn Shelby County diplomas instead of an equivalency.
"The GED is a great program, but we're targeting students that dropped out of school and haven't moved forward. There are a lot of students that have moved forward, gotten their GED and gotten jobs," said Kerry Fannin, director of secondary schools for Shelby County Public Schools.
Because students will be able to earn full diplomas, they would have to meet the same requirements as all students meet – 17 core requirements in math, science, English, practical living, arts and humanities and physical education, along with nine elective credits.
Students would receive credit for the courses they had completed, and would complete only the necessary credits using the COMPASS Learning test.
"Say I'm taking English III," Fannin said. "Before beginning work in the course, I take a test through the COMPASS Learning software, and if I know the first six weeks of material, then I start from that material and move forward."
Fannin said the school district is a pilot program for the COMPASS system and has been given the software to use.
"Since we're the first district to use the software, they're giving it to us for free," he said. "This software is more like curriculum learning. We're very excited about it."
The program kicks off with the start of the new semester, and Fannin said the district already has gotten a good start.
"We originally sent out about sixty letters to students that had dropped out over the last three years," he said. "About half of those were returned to sender, but of the thirty that weren't we've already heard back from eleven interested students. Now, we're hoping we can reach even more of those that were returned."
The classes would meet from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Shelby County High School on Monday through Thursday, but the program is more self-paced.
"We're asking the students to work during the day, and if they don't have a job we'll help them find one, and then at night come and work with us for twelve hours a week," Fannin said. "But, their login will work 24 hours a day, so they can work on the courses at any time.
Fannin said Denise Ruffra, a former AP English teacher and counselor, will work with the students, who would be able to make up the elective credits through work study. Her hiring is the significant new cost to the district.
Fannin said the district is still accepting students for the program.
"Anyone that's dropped out in the last three years can still call Jada Bastin [633-2375, at SCPS] to join the program," he said. "We really hope we can reach everyone."
The Shelby County Board of Education will have its only December meeting on Thursday at 7 p.m. at Central Office. In conjunction with the board meeting there will also be a special called meeting of the Shelby County District Finance Corporation. At the meeting, the board will: