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Charlotte Amalie
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WORK-STUDY IS NEW OPTION FOR UNDERACHIEVERS

While there's pomp and circumstance for hundreds of bright and capable teenagers who march down the aisles at school graduation ceremonies in the Virgin Islands every year, there's also a back door for underachievers who "age out" of the system simply by reaching their 16th birthday.
On St. John last week, the principal of Julius E. Sprauve School, which goes through eighth grade, told parents of underachievers that she will offer them an option: stay in school for more training in the basics, undergo hands-on job training and, if they wish, study for a high school equivalency diploma at night.
Principal Shirley Joseph says she wants to try the work-study approach as a pilot program because the students in question are bright but unmotivated. She noted that the nearest public alternative school is across the water on St. Thomas, a logistical challenge even for a willing child.
The scenario is varied for the territory's other junior high and middle schools.
A record of poor grades and bad discipline is a sure ticket out by age 16, according to David Rossington, principal at Arthur A. Richards Junior High School on St. Croix. "When you're 16, you can be put out of school by law," he says. But he adds there are options for continuing one's education — alternative school, adult education and Job Corps. The principals say each of these has its strengths and faults.
Some educators say they will work with their older students as long as they're making an effort. "There are all kinds of circumstances," says Ivy Williams, principal at Addelina Cancryn Junior High on St. Thomas. For example, she says, some older middle schoolers are recently arrived from other countries. Some have a tenuous grasp of English. Some have family circumstances that interfere with their education.
"We have a number of students who are 16," Williams says. She met with their parents at the start of February. With the support of parents and guidance counselors, she says, a number older Cancryn students have met the required academic standards and gone on to high school.
At John H. Woodson Junior High on St. Croix, assistant principal Doris Brodhurst says, a new bilingual class began recently. Where language is a barrier, "You may not know the potential of that student until you expose him or her to the education system," she notes.
The academic prospects for older students with average ability and adequate language skills but low motivation depend on the policy of the school they attend. At St. Thomas' two intermediary schools, administrators say they're willing to go the extra mile.
"Our aim is to reduce the failure rate," says Carver Farrow, principal at Bertha C. Boschulte Middle School. "We do everything we can to see that the children have an opportunity to succeed, before they become behavior problems."
Boschulte has adopted in-house alternative education and cooperative learning programs. In cooperative learning, succeeding students work with their at-risk peers to help them improve their grades. In a directed study program, failing students are re-taught and retested. "We used to have teachers tutor free of charge, but they weren't going to continue giving up their time like that," Farrow notes.
At Cancryn last year, Williams set a goal of having 85 percent of seventh and eighth graders meet the standards for promotion. Remediation through summer school is available for borderline promotees and those who fail multiple subjects.
Elena Christian Junior High on St. Croix pioneered alternative education for at-risk students in 1979. Instead of waiting until eighth grade to reach out to troubled students, principal Carolyn Brown says, a program was recently instituted to help seventh graders. Although "when you get to junior high, there is no social promotion," Brown says, social promotions from grade school can place children in junior high who are not academically ready for the work.
Despite the outreach efforts in the public schools, Brodhurst says, some youngsters prefer to go into an alternative program. "We have 16-year-old kids, and they stay," she says. "But some elect to go to adult ed. because they feel so big around the 11- and 12-year olds. Surprisingly, a lot of kids turn around when they get to alternative school, because there are smaller classes."
For students who move to the two alternative schools in the public school system, job training becomes part of their studies.
Both Eric Blake, Jr., principal of New Horizons School on St. Thomas, and Corine Williams, principal at Positive Connections on St. Croix, say their students receive coaching on resume writing and interviewing skills through a program run by the Labor Department. But Williams acknowledges that her underachievers sometimes get lost in a student population that also includes juvenile delinquents, students with emotional problems and special education candidates who have been mis-evaluated. And although the goal of alternative school is to prepare intermediate students for high school, both principals says they are having only partial success.
Positive Connection's Williams says her administrators are tracking the outcomes of the class that enrolled in 1997. While the results are not complete, she says, the initial findings show some students made it to high school, and some dropped out. Others enrolled in Job Corps, which Williams considers a good option for those who can demonstrate self-discipline. "For a lot of them," she says, Job Corps works "in terms of providing a lot of technical skills," but many young Virgin Islanders run into problems with their behavior. "Job Corps is very strict about behavior," she says. "They feel you have come there for a purpose."
Other alternative education students have moved out of the territory with their families or drifted away, Corine Williams says. And, both she and Blake note, some of those enrolled in what many see as a last-ditch attempt at public school education at New Horizons and Positive Connections have lost their lives to crime.

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While there's pomp and circumstance for hundreds of bright and capable teenagers who march down the aisles at school graduation ceremonies in the Virgin Islands every year, there's also a back door for underachievers who "age out" of the system simply by reaching their 16th birthday.
On St. John last week, the principal of Julius E. Sprauve School, which goes through eighth grade, told parents of underachievers that she will offer them an option: stay in school for more training in the basics, undergo hands-on job training and, if they wish, study for a high school equivalency diploma at night.
Principal Shirley Joseph says she wants to try the work-study approach as a pilot program because the students in question are bright but unmotivated. She noted that the nearest public alternative school is across the water on St. Thomas, a logistical challenge even for a willing child.
The scenario is varied for the territory's other junior high and middle schools.
A record of poor grades and bad discipline is a sure ticket out by age 16, according to David Rossington, principal at Arthur A. Richards Junior High School on St. Croix. "When you're 16, you can be put out of school by law," he says. But he adds there are options for continuing one's education -- alternative school, adult education and Job Corps. The principals say each of these has its strengths and faults.
Some educators say they will work with their older students as long as they're making an effort. "There are all kinds of circumstances," says Ivy Williams, principal at Addelina Cancryn Junior High on St. Thomas. For example, she says, some older middle schoolers are recently arrived from other countries. Some have a tenuous grasp of English. Some have family circumstances that interfere with their education.
"We have a number of students who are 16," Williams says. She met with their parents at the start of February. With the support of parents and guidance counselors, she says, a number older Cancryn students have met the required academic standards and gone on to high school.
At John H. Woodson Junior High on St. Croix, assistant principal Doris Brodhurst says, a new bilingual class began recently. Where language is a barrier, "You may not know the potential of that student until you expose him or her to the education system," she notes.
The academic prospects for older students with average ability and adequate language skills but low motivation depend on the policy of the school they attend. At St. Thomas' two intermediary schools, administrators say they're willing to go the extra mile.
"Our aim is to reduce the failure rate," says Carver Farrow, principal at Bertha C. Boschulte Middle School. "We do everything we can to see that the children have an opportunity to succeed, before they become behavior problems."
Boschulte has adopted in-house alternative education and cooperative learning programs. In cooperative learning, succeeding students work with their at-risk peers to help them improve their grades. In a directed study program, failing students are re-taught and retested. "We used to have teachers tutor free of charge, but they weren't going to continue giving up their time like that," Farrow notes.
At Cancryn last year, Williams set a goal of having 85 percent of seventh and eighth graders meet the standards for promotion. Remediation through summer school is available for borderline promotees and those who fail multiple subjects.
Elena Christian Junior High on St. Croix pioneered alternative education for at-risk students in 1979. Instead of waiting until eighth grade to reach out to troubled students, principal Carolyn Brown says, a program was recently instituted to help seventh graders. Although "when you get to junior high, there is no social promotion," Brown says, social promotions from grade school can place children in junior high who are not academically ready for the work.
Despite the outreach efforts in the public schools, Brodhurst says, some youngsters prefer to go into an alternative program. "We have 16-year-old kids, and they stay," she says. "But some elect to go to adult ed. because they feel so big around the 11- and 12-year olds. Surprisingly, a lot of kids turn around when they get to alternative school, because there are smaller classes."
For students who move to the two alternative schools in the public school system, job training becomes part of their studies.
Both Eric Blake, Jr., principal of New Horizons School on St. Thomas, and Corine Williams, principal at Positive Connections on St. Croix, say their students receive coaching on resume writing and interviewing skills through a program run by the Labor Department. But Williams acknowledges that her underachievers sometimes get lost in a student population that also includes juvenile delinquents, students with emotional problems and special education candidates who have been mis-evaluated. And although the goal of alternative school is to prepare intermediate students for high school, both principals says they are having only partial success.
Positive Connection's Williams says her administrators are tracking the outcomes of the class that enrolled in 1997. While the results are not complete, she says, the initial findings show some students made it to high school, and some dropped out. Others enrolled in Job Corps, which Williams considers a good option for those who can demonstrate self-discipline. "For a lot of them," she says, Job Corps works "in terms of providing a lot of technical skills," but many young Virgin Islanders run into problems with their behavior. "Job Corps is very strict about behavior," she says. "They feel you have come there for a purpose."
Other alternative education students have moved out of the territory with their families or drifted away, Corine Williams says. And, both she and Blake note, some of those enrolled in what many see as a last-ditch attempt at public school education at New Horizons and Positive Connections have lost their lives to crime.