By Diana Bowley of the Bangor Daily News - DEXTER - The Tri-County Technical Center has proposed a program that could reduce dropout rates by offering younger high school students who founder more of a hands-on education.
The latest state data on dropout rates available to local officials showed that the center's sending school districts — SAD 4 in Guilford, SAD 41 in Milo, SAD 68 in Dover-Foxcroft, SAD 46 in Dexter, SAD 48 in Newport and the Greenville school system — had much higher rates than the statewide average.
In 2004-05, these school districts had a combined dropout rate of 4.71 percent, compared with a state rate of 2.78 percent that year.
Those statistics were cause to explore alternative ways to educate and motivate students at risk at an earlier age, according to Nicholas Vafiades, the center's director.
The proposed pretechnical program, conceived during a planning session, would do just that by offering certain freshmen and sophomores additional curriculum based on counseling, academics and community.
Under the concept, the students would alternate days between the new program and their regular classes in their districts.
"This program is unique," Vafiades said Thursday. "What we're trying to do as a program is set up an educational plan for the students that goes not only through high school graduation, but also goes on to a technical school."
Participants would engage in personal and career exploration by job shadowing and work experiences; would learn appropriate work behaviors and attitudes through cooperation and respect; and would develop both academic and pretechnical skills, according to Vafiades.
The program also is expected to improve the ability of students to meet Maine's Learning Results requirements.
The concept of the program has been endorsed by the center's regional council. Next, the proposal is expected to be presented for approval to the SAD 46 board, the host district, in June.
The other sending school districts also are expected to weigh in on their support for the program, according to Vafiades.
Once the local support has been obtained, the program will be presented to the state Department of Education for its approval and funding.
The proposed budget for the program, which would serve 50 students, is $192,000. The first two years of costs would be funded locally and from grants, according to Vafiades. He said reimbursement for those costs would be expected from the state.
Vafiades hopes to implement the program in the fall of 2008, but he noted that there are space issues to be addressed in the plan. There is no space immediately available for the program in the technical center, he said.
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