The Learning Stores: Outreach in Fort Vermilion School Division

WHAT IS AN OUTREACH PROGRAM?

According to Billie E. J. Housego (1999), “Teachers in innovative, alternative schools and programs have attempted, for more than 30 years, to meet the needs of students who either cannot or will not pursue their education in traditional high schools.” In Alberta, a few educators began as early as 20 years ago to attempt to meet the needs of these students.

Housego (1999) states, “The term outreach, which applies to community outreach and outreach counselling and refers generally to ‘efforts to increase the availability and utilization of services, especially through direct intervention and interaction with the target population,’ has been in use since 1974.” (Educational Resources Information Centre Thesaurus, 1997, p.86)

The use of the term “outreach” in Alberta emerged in the mid 1990s. It was preceded by the term “storefront” school, and a number of Outreach Programs still retain “storefront” in their name. In the 2008/2009 school year, Alberta Education provided funding to 127 Outreach Programs.

(Exerpt from Alberta Education's Outreach Program Handbook 2009)

Who attends Outreach?

Some students, for a variety of reasons, find that regular school programs and services do not meet their needs. To encourage these students to continue and complete their education, Alberta Education provides funding for Outreach Programs for junior or senior high school aged students. In the early years of Outreach Programs, the focus was on students who were considered at-risk of dropping out of school. That focus remains, but in recent years has broadened considerably to include, but not exclusively, the following students:

  • students who want to take their full high school program at the Outreach Program
  • students who need only a few more courses for graduation
  • students who are working and cannot fit a regular high school program into their schedules
  • students who have failed, been otherwise unsuccessful in high school or have dropped out
  • pregnant and parenting teens
  • students who have been or are involved with drugs, criminal activity and/or sexual abuse
  • students who have been bullied or who, for other reasons, find learning difficult because of large classes and crowded schools
  • students who have been directed by the board to an outreach program
  • students coping with mental or physical health issues such as anxiety, depression or other medical problems
  • students who are so heavily involved in sports or fine arts that they are unable to attend classes full time
  • students who, because of their religious and cultural norms, find that regular schools do not meet their needs

 

 

(Exerpt from Alberta Education's Outreach Program Handbook 2009)

What are the benefits of Outreach?

There are many benefits to attending an Outreach School.

These include:

• Students are able to follow a customized education program. All students work toward obtaining their high school diplomas, but they are able, in consultation with teaching staff, to choose which courses they take and when they take them.

• Students work at their own pace. Although the school may set minimum expectations for student progress (e.g., completion of two modules per week), students are given a great deal of flexibility to work at the best pace for their ability, their motivation and their personal, home and work situations. This flexibility attracts many students back to school and enables them to complete high school.

• Attendance expectations are also flexible. In some Outreach Programs, students are required to be present for only one or two hours per week in order for teachers to monitor their progress and deal with the students’ personal needs. In other Outreach Programs, students may be required to attend school for 10 or more hours per week. Attendance also may be defined as the time that the student attends to studies off campus.

• The Outreach Program may have extended hours. Some Outreach Programs serve students who have daytime work schedules or who attend another school during the day. They do so by extending the school day on one or more days of - 5 - the week. For example, the school may open later in the morning and stay open later in the afternoon, may be open one evening a week and/or may be open during the summer.

• Students can take some high school courses while working. Although regular high schools may allow students to take a reduced workload, an Outreach Program may permit students to take as little as one course at a time, if that is all the student can manage.

• The student/teacher relationship may be more meaningful as teachers have the opportunity to provide more personal attention thereby allowing them to get to know the individual needs of students including their personal lives as well as how they are performing in their school work. This results in students believing that teachers care about them as individuals.

• Outreach Programs have low student/teacher ratios. Many Outreach Programs limit the number of students per certificated teacher. Flexible scheduling and attendance requirements provide for low student/teacher ratios during the school day. As a result, students have a learning environment that provides additional individualized assistance to meet their learning needs.

• Students have access to specialized training and support services, such as parenting courses, personal and career counselling, conflict resolution, anger management, time management, study skills and learning strategies.

• Students are able to complete coursework within flexible timelines.

• Outreach Programs provide some students with a second chance to succeed in completing high school by giving students an opportunity to study in a more supportive environment designed to meet their individual learning needs.

 

 

(Exerpt from Alberta Education's Outreach Program Handbook 2009)