Providing non-academic services to students, their families, and even the wider community is becoming increasingly common. Successful integrative programs seem to share a few characteristics:
- They are developed by local people.
- They respond to perceived local needs.
- They are carefully planned to meet the needs of clearly defined target populations.
In rural areas, integrative programs often begin as a response to financial pressures caused by declining enrollment. Communities often begin by doing such things as putting the public library in the public school building, thereby cutting facility costs and expanding the staffs of both libraries.
In urban communities, integration is more likely to arise from a need to put support services such as health care and counseling close to the students and their families. The impetus there is to harness the power of families to improve students’ home learning environments, which, in turn, helps to keep students in school.
For example, Providence, Rhode Island, is the site of two online high schools targeting the needs of student drop outs, who now with the added burdens of jobs and parenthood, are coming back to get their diplomas.
The Providence program limits the amount of required classroom time because its target group is juggling home, parenting, and work responsibilities. It provides laptop computers so students can access class materials at their convenience. It provides assistance in connecting with social services. And the curriculum deliberately draws connections between academic content and workplace skills.
I suspect that programs that integrate non-academic services into academic programs have a powerful impact on local support for schools as well.
[Fixed broken link 2016-01-22]