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Alternative School Key to Improving Anchorage Graduation Rates

Published On: Oct 24 2013 05:14:00 PM AKDT

Increasing graduation rates is one of the Anchorage school district's top priorities. But with only 73 percent of students walking the stage, what happens to those who don't? 

Benny Benson is not your traditional school.



Kids enrolled at Benny Benson Secondary School are not always traditional students, which is why the programs aimed at transforming so-called "bad kids" into successful young adults are somewhat unique for the Anchorage School District.

Treyveon Thompson said he previously had little interest in school.

"I didn't like some of my teachers so sometimes i just skipped school and go to my uncles house and play video games.

But now he is back on track to graduate, and he said he has ASD's alternative school to thank.

"I only had five credits, and now I'm catching up," said the senior. He now has 18 credits. 

The  program targets at-risk and failing students grades 7 to 12, who have had academic and social difficulties in their regular schools. 

"Parents are trying to figure out why or their counselors are trying to figure out why they are behind, we take all those guys," said principal Frank Reuter, who calls the school a second chance for many young adults

With smaller class sizes and an emphasis on working jobs, teachers are able focus on each student's individual needs

Jane Marcum has been a math teacher at Benny Benson for 27 years.

She said there is no substitute for one-on-one support.

"They say they can't do the math, they say I can't do this and the more I work with them and encourage them and show them their success, little steps at a time," Marcum said. "Eventually we will make huge gaps in their ability." 

The school has 260 students in its "Search and Save" programs and still has space available for more students.

Reuter said the school graduates 90 students annually who were previously deemed at-risk. The current goal is to increase that number to more than 100.