According to Project U-Turn, students who re-enter high school from juvenile placement have a 90 percent dropout rate, one of the highest of any student population in Philadelphia.
Among students who’ve received the District’s RETI-WRAP (Re-Entry Transition Initiative) services, that rate is closer to the “low 60s,” said Benjamin Wright, regional superintendent for the Alternative Education Region.
RETI-WRAP is a 10-day assessment program for students returning from placement. It is often the only way the District can connect with these former offenders. Wright credits the lower dropout rate to more appropriate school matches and support as students transition back to a regular school environment.
In each regional office, there is a “transition liaison” who prepares students for re-entry by meeting with counselors and the principal at the sending and receiving school before enrollment is completed. The liaisons consider a student’s status, academic and behavioral issues, and design a learning plan, then review the student’s progress every 30 days for the first few months.
“Now there’s some continuity in his or her education,” Wright said.
To increase the chances of a smooth transition, the District ended the process of returning adjudicated youth to regular classrooms in mid-semester. Instead, they will remain in an extended RETI-WRAP program, with a chance to earn credits, until the start of the next semester.
The Open Doors program is another avenue for adjudicated youth. Located at North Philadelphia Community High School, and managed by One Bright Ray, it is a career and technical education program offering hands-on learning.
Thirty-five seats in Open Doors are reserved for students returning from juvenile placement, as are 100 in accelerated schools. Others are counseled into a neighborhood school or an alternative “Oasis program” within a neighborhood school.
Officials have recently aligned the curriculum in juvenile facilities with that in Philadelphia. The Pennsylvania Academic and Career/Technical Training Alliance (PACTT) assessed the academic programs of the six largest residential facilities serving Philadelphia youth to ensure that their curricula aligned with the state Department of Education standards and Philadelphia graduation requirements.
Four of the facilities have now adopted Philadelphia’s curriculum, which is aligned to state standards.
Wright said that he expects the District to serve about 1,200 students returning from juvenile placement this school year, compared with about 800 in 2008-09. He attributes the 50 percent jump to a rise in juvenile arrests.