Aside from the small number of students, the classroom at Bloomington Graduation School does not look much different than any other you might see in the Monroe County Community School Corporation. But the students here are different. They are all enrolled because they need more personalized instruction.
Secondary Education Director Jan Bergeson says teachers here work to constantly engage the students.
“The students need to be more engaged these are students that will not do well in a classroom, where they’re not expected to produce something,” she says. “These are students that need to be actively involved. They need to have a connection with an adult daily or at least weekly.”
Principal Chuck Holloway says even though the students are taking a different path, the end point is the same – a graduation not unlike the ceremony for students who attend traditional schools.
A First Graduating Class
On Thursday, May 31, students in Bloomington Graduation School’s first graduating class will do just that as they walk across the stage at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater to receive their diplomas.
Aurora Alternative High School in Bloomington closed in 2010. Just a year later, Bloomington Graduation School opened to take its place. Bloomington Graduation School faculty say they are trying to stave off any stereotypes. Instead, they say, they are focusing on individual students, particularly by helping those who don’t do well in traditional classrooms.
“There are opportunities in a school like this for kids to accelerate, for kids to move faster then what’s available for them in a traditional school setting that is not the majority of a kid that would attend a school like this but that is possible,” Holloway says.
The standards at the Graduation school are the same as traditional schools and the curriculum is just as rigid.
“They have competencies for different areas, different academic competencies English, math, social studies science, career, technology,” Holloway says. “But they also have competencies that have to do with civic engagement with college prep and personal growth competencies. ”
A Specialized Learning Style
But Indiana University School of Education Professor Peter Kloosterman says alternative schools are not for everyone. He says programs like those at BGS cater to students who don’t work well in large classroom settings.
“It’s designed to really help students get through and reach a diploma and students who wouldn’t otherwise necessarily finish high school,” he says.
Kloosterman says if the school can show it really is making a difference for kids who otherwise wouldn’t graduate then it will have a greater chance of success. But he says it will always be difficult to get students who don’t have much desire to learn to enroll in any school.
“It’s a lot easier to get those students to complete the program– to complete high school than it is to get students who are in severe danger of dropping out or who already have dropped out,” he says. “That’s a much more difficult group to reach because they haven’t been successful.”
Holloway admits it has not been easy, but then again, there are always growing pains the first year with any project. He says it will take time for people trust the school and understand its role in the district.
“There was no one student wise here in place to be the mentor to say here’s how we do things at Bloomington Graduation School, and it made it harder and so we’re trying to establish what does it mean to be a BGS kid, what does it mean to be here and overcoming a lot of the negativity,” Holloway says.