Area schools get graduation coaches

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Selma Times-Journal

Graduation coaches in Selma and Dallas County are finding that student attendance plays a key role in whether or not students pass the exit exam and graduate high school.

The coaches&8212;formerly known as dropout prevention advisers&8212;have looked into the patterns behind the numbers.

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Yulonda Randolph is a graduation coach for Keith High School and has been working with Dallas County students since Jan. 8. She said the biggest issues facing the students are faulty attendance, not getting the proper help in preparing for the exam, and family situations that take away from students&8217; time spent in school.

Randolph said she has been breaking students down by grade and then categorizing them by factors such as low grades and low attendance. Those who fall into more than one of those categories, Randolph works with first, and then works her way through the categories.

Randolph said she has started with a focus on seniors, but after helping them get the skills and information they need to prepare for the exit exam, she will begin working with the younger grades. Randolph plans to be working with both underclassmen and middle schoolers by the end of the school year.

Randolph said success will require cooperation from faculty, students, and parents. &8220;It&8217;s going to take a whole community effort to get this thing done,&8221; Randolph said.

Steven Burrati, coach for Dallas County High School, said the most common problems he&8217;s seen reflect what national studies have shown: students bored in class, feeling overwhelmed when taking the exam, education taking a backseat in the home, and low attendance.

Burrati said Dallas County is already seeing success. Three students who were at high risk for dropping out have decided to stay in school since Burrati has been working with students.

The Graduation Coach Pilot Program officially started in September as the Dropout Prevention Adviser program in a short list of schools around the state.

Based on the success of the pilot program, the state legislature may approve funding in next year&8217;s education budget that would allow for 174 new coaches, in addition to the current 25.