A special school program is accelerating the graduation rate for dropouts without having them ever set foot in a public school.

Students who are not on tract to complete their high school diploma by their 21st birthday will now have an opportunity to attend the Bethel Acceleration Academy, a special program for current and former students.

Accelerating the Graduation Rate for Dropouts

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The new program will be run by the for profit education provider Atlantic Education Partners, with oversight from the school district.
“The goal here is to offer a different program here for students that have dropped out,” said Jennifer Bethman, Bethel’s assistant superintendent for secondary schools.

About 50 students have signed up to take courses in what will be the first operation in the state for the Chicago-based company, said Frank Walton, Atlantic’s regional vice president.

Bethel administrators are tapping into state money set aside to carry out House Bill 1418, which aimed to give former students an alternative route to a diploma.

Most of the 53 Washington districts that run HB 1418 programs collaborate with educational service districts to run the program, and news that Bethel has opted to go with a private company has sparked concerns.

Bob Shafer, president of the Bethel Education Association, said the teachers union is looking into whether the contract violates the district’s agreement with the union.

Accelerating the Graduation Rate for Dropouts

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The Federal Way School District is also considering contracting with Atlantic Education Partners. The School Board was set to vote on the program this week, but delayed to gather more information about the dropout program and Atlantic before moving forward, said Carol Gregory, School Board president.

Thirteen other districts around the state are contracting with another for-profit, The American Academy.

In Bethel’s case, the new program will follow a blended curriculum that combines classroom instruction with online learning, Walton said.

Each student will be given an Amazon Kindle to work online outside of the classroom and free broadband Internet access to complete their schoolwork at home.
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