Page 2 of 2   <      

School Program Puts Focus On Graduation, Not Grades

"A lot of these students are extremely capable," Glover said. "I ask them, 'Why did you have problems with this in the school year?' and they say, 'I didn't like my teacher.' Here, they rely on themselves."

School officials said the system saves about $13,000 by using the computer program for 100 students, as opposed to hiring instructors and holding traditional classes. The program is free, but students could be charged tuition in coming years, officials said.

"This is for students who have difficulties -- I like to use the word challenges -- and who are not looking to change their grade or GPA," said Renée Lacy, the school system's supervisor of alternative and summer programs. "Let's say you'll have an F on the transcript for English 9. If you pass the summer course, it will say on the other side of the transcript that the student passed the course."

Laqawnda Fisher, whose son failed a math course and is enrolled in the program, said she was immediately drawn to the course when it was suggested by a guidance counselor. "I said, 'Is it cheaper than the $425 [for a regular summer school course]?' And he said, 'It's absolutely free.' I said, 'Where do I sign up?' " Fisher recalled.

Fisher said it is okay that her son will not be able to raise his average. "It doesn't change his GPA, however there's a way to get community service or something to beef up his transcript," she said. "And it's something he can explain when he does college interviews, like 'I couldn't afford summer school.' "

At summer school, meanwhile, Bria was struggling on a world history quiz, the same 10-question, multiple-choice quiz she had taken five times.

She looked at one question and was stumped: "What was the purpose of the Communist international organization?" So, she went to Ask.com and typed "communist international organization" into the Web site's search engine. She found a few links but none that helped her. She went on to the next question, about what best describes philosopher Karl Marx's theory of communism. She became stuck again and turned to teacher Don Mercy for help.

"Isn't Marx the one that didn't believe in government?" Bria said.

"Look up Marx in your book," Mercy said.


<       2

© 2008 The Washington Post Company