Wake Ed

Wake County to give high school dropouts a second chance

The Wake County school system is starting a new program designed to give high school dropouts a second chance to return to class to get their diplomas.

Under a contract approved Tuesday by the school board, Chicago-based Acceleration Academies will begin the “Wake Acceleration Academy” in the fall. The company will get a list of Wake dropouts, ages 16 to 21, and go door-to-door recruiting them to attend an academy with smaller school environments that allow for individualized learning; a mixture of online classes and in-person learning; and flexible school hours.

In addition to the academic help, students will have access to “life coaches” counseling and behavioral support to help prepare them for life after graduation.

“The Acceleration Academies model is showing early signs of success in other states,” said Drew Cook, Wake’s senior director of high school programs, in a press release. “We feel that it is our obligation to offer every opportunity we can to ensure as many Wake County students and former students as possible finish their education, which could then lead to college, better jobs and better lives.”

The academy isn’t supposed to cost Wake any local funds. Instead, the company would run the academies on the state and local funding that they receive for each former dropout. Wake would keep its share of the local funds for each student.

The company currently serves 1,050 former dropouts in academies that opened this school year in Florida and Washington. Mark Graves, chief operating officer of Acceleration Academies, has said the company is working with Wake because its top officers are former superintendents who know Wake Superintendent Jim Merrill and consider him an innovative leader.

The company has talked about opening as many as three Wake academies that would each serve 250 students for a total enrollment of 750.

The new Wake Acceleration Academy comes as the district is working toward the goal of having 95 percent of students graduating high school by 2020. The graduation rate is currently 82.9 percent.

For more information, go to www.accelerationacademy.org.