Helping dropouts graduate

If you can’t get dropouts to come back to your high school campus, perhaps you can meet them at the local shopping center. That’s what the Kent School District has done with its Individualized Graduation and Diploma Program (iGrad).

A partnership between the district and nearby Green River Community College, the iGrad program helps 16- to 21-year-olds earn high school diplomas, GEDs, professional certification, college credits, and even an associate degree, all free of charge.

Kent’s choice of a space was important. The district wanted a location that was accessible by public transportation and looked more like a community college than a high school, hence the shopping center.

iGrad has a flexible schedule--students can attend in three-hour blocks in the morning, afternoon, or evening. “A lot of part-time people come as needed,” says former Superintendent Edward Lee Vargas. “They are not bound by a seat time schedule.”

Teachers customize a plan for each student using past grades, school records, and diagnostic tests. Classes are blended with individualized and online instruction through Kent’s online high school. Teachers work on site with small groups of students or individuals, and students complete work outside the classroom during the week. And so that they can access content when their schedules allow, they each receive wireless-enabled laptops.