Inside the Classroom

One Organization’s Success with Educating At-Risk Students

For many students, a typical school setting with lecture-driven instruction doesn’t work. And when students also have challenges they’re dealing with outside of the classroom, the structure and rigidity of a school day can prevent them from getting the education they need and deserve, so some creative and flexible education solutions can be key for helping these students learn, graduate, and thrive.

Rite of Passage and their head of educational technology, Scott Van Doozer, know a thing or two about educating at-risk students who need more than a regular public school can offer. This organization serves 2,000 of some of our nation’s most vulnerable youth, most of whom are adjudicated or have been expelled from their previous schools. Rite of Passage works with 40 different programs and schools across 16 states, so it’s important that the education they provide is standards based, high quality, and flexible and adaptable enough to meet the many varying needs of their students.

When it was time to find a new online education provider, Rite of Passage held an education summit with leaders from all of the programs and schools they serve. At this summit, they hosted two edtech providers, which allowed Scott and all the school leaders to see what both companies had to offer, and led to them making the decision to begin a new partnership with Edgenuity®. From the presentation alone, they could all see how easily they’d be able to implement the digital learning solutions, and deliver them (without disruption!) to the schools, students, and educators who’d be using them.

Now in their second year of use, they can see that their initial impressions were right. “Implementation has gone very well. I’m very pleased with where we’re at,” said Scott. They now have over 800 students throughout the US enrolled in online courses, and two schools in particular, Meadowlark in Wyoming and Canyon State in Arizona, are experiencing great success. At Meadowlark, students and teachers share classroom time, and online learning makes up a large portion of the curriculum. “They’re executing it well,” said Scott. “They’re fully bought-in, they have momentum, and then the students and staff buy in, and they all see the value of it.” These schools have been acting as a sort of beacon for the other Rite of Passage schools, but they’re only two pieces of the puzzle.

[Rite of Passage has] had a 75% success rate over their 35 years of operation, and on average, students gain 2 grade levels after just a year at one of their schools

The help, care, and attention Rite of Passage put into educating at-risk students extends beyond the classroom, too. Students participate in “targeted programs, services and unique opportunities…that focus on [their] mental, physical and emotional well-being,” which translates to after-school mentoring, transition services, philanthropy projects, and supportive, caring environments for students in need. This model has proven to be a successful one for them—they’ve had a 75% success rate over their 35 years of operation, and on average, students gain 2 grade levels after just a year at one of their schools. And many of their graduates go on to post-secondary education, and become more engaged and active in their own communities.

With the unique challenges that Rite of Passage students face, it’s important that these schools employ the right people and partner with the right providers. In some cases, students are only with them for a short time, so they need to help them as effectively as they can. This means a lot of Rite of Passage students need to recover lost credits, so the curriculum needs to meet them where they’re at, which allows them to work on exactly the material they need to in order to master the content and pass the class. And for a program whose goals include educating at-risk students and helping them get back to grade level and graduate, that’s not half bad.

About the Author


Where Learning Clicks

Since 1998, Edgenuity has been creating products and services that help all students achieve their full potential. As an extension of our efforts, we also produce Where Learning Clicks to share meaningful and timely ideas about trends, developments, and changes in education, as well as how to further incorporate technology into today’s classrooms.