According to Business Insider magazine, more than 1.3 million students drop out of high school every year in the United States, making them ineligible for 90% of the jobs in America. Fortunately, Oklahoma offers approximately 270 alternative education programs through local public school districts, serving about 12,500 students. In fact, about 3,000 students graduated through alternative programs instead of dropping out of high school. Since research shows that it financially costs a community far more to support dropouts than what a high school graduate can earn, Tahlequah Public Schools is proud to have Central Academy, one of the top alternative education program in the state.
Alternative programs serve students who are at-risk to drop out of high school by moving them away from the traditional school setting. Students have more individualized instruction and academic monitoring due to the required lower teacher to student ratio. The Central Academy staff collaborates weekly to evaluate each student’s academic progress, address behavioral issues, and discuss interventions and goals for students. One important part of the program is for students to benefit from group and/or individual licensed counseling opportunities. Working together, these programs promote student growth and academic progress, allowing students to attain a high school diploma.
For many high school students, graduating high school seems like an unattainable goal. Some are facing many adversities in life such as becoming a teen parent, exhibiting behavioral difficulties, having academic deficiencies, dealing with social issues, lacking parental support, and/or coming from a low socio-economic background, contributing to that overall feeling of hopelessness. Central Academy offers students a concrete plan and needed support for Tahlequah High School students as an alternative to quitting school. Last year, the graduating class of 2016 had 40 seniors who earned their high school diploma, in part because of the alternative education program.
In addition to being the alternative education site, there are other programs located on campus. Under the direction of retired Command Sergeant Major Marcus Sams, students are court-ordered to attend the Cherokee County Regimented Education Academy (CCREA). This is a behavioral and academic program serving students in a more structured and disciplined environment. After school, Central Academy is the site for the Short Term Alternative Placement Program (STAP) for both middle school and high school students. This discipline program is every day after school from 3:00-7:15pm; it offers an alternative to suspension when possible. Certified teachers supervise and monitor students, helping them with class assignments so they do not fall behind in school. Additionally, Central Academy offers an Adult Education Program (ABE). This program offers area residents instructional preparation for a High School Equivalency (HSE) exam, both at Central Academy and at Oklahoma Works. Within the ABE program, English as a Second Language (ESL) classes are available for students. As an added resource, all ABE students can use the Northeastern State University’s Cappi Wadley Literacy Center.
Tahlequah Public Schools understands the importance of the alternative education program and the programs offered at Central Academy. They all offer so many vital services for those students unable to be successful in the traditional school setting. We look forward to the continued success of Central Academy as the program continues to provide hope and encouragement for struggling students to set goals and achieve what they thought was impossible. “If kids come to us from strong, healthy functioning families, it makes our job easier. If they do not come to us from strong, healthy, functioning families, it makes our job more important.” –Barbara Colorose.