Charter putting 'first generation' students onto college track
The Storm Lake Charter School program is achieving all of its original goals despite some state-imposed restrictions, according to a report heard by the Storm Lake Board of Education this week.
It would appear that the number of students enrolled in the program, which allows students to opt for a five year path to achieve both a high school diploma and an Iowa Central Community College associates degree, are sharply down. However, the district is no longer allowed to let students remain in the program for six years if necessary, which accounts for the change in numbers, according to Storm Lake High School Principal Beau Ruleaux.
A statistical study of the charter school shows that it has achieved a key goal of increasing the number of non-caucasian, English Language Learner students who go on to earn college credit.
"Data supports that we are reaching the goal. In my mind, it is very important that we are reaching the students who represent the first generation in their families to be able to go to college. Seventy-five percent of the charter school students are part of that first generation and that speaks well for the program," Ruleaux said.
Both students in the program and their parents are expressing great gratitude for the opportunity, he added.
Other original goals for the charter school were to increase dual credit courses available at the high school (offerings rose from 35 last year to the current 42 with more business, accounting and health classes); to help increase proficiency scores in reading/math/science; to help ensure that all student have individualized learning plans to follow; and to increase the amount of college credit students earn while still in high school, whether or not they are in the charter.
The number of dual credits dropped slightly this year, but that was because of a change in overall enrollment, and does not reflect less credits being earned on average, officials said.
Currently, of 49 students in the charter program for the year, two have already completed associate degrees early, three more completed college carpentry vocational degrees, 36 are on track to continue their education at Iowa Central or some other college, three have entered the workforce, and five have left the program without completing the charter.
School board member Erika Dierking asked for some follow-up study to try to determine how many of the former Storm Lake Charter School students have gone on to earn four-year college degrees. Ruleaux noted that it can be difficult to track students after they have left the local programs, but said he will attempt to do so.
Counselor Lisa Schroeder said that a future goal is to do more pre-planning with freshmen and sophomore students at the high school who may be interested in the charter, to better plan out their future tracks before they even enter charter school.
The charter school program began in 2005-06, considered an innovative experiment in education for the state.