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Transfer Schools Give Second Chance To Shaky Students

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High school students with few credits often drop out, but for the past few years the Department of Education has experimented with a program to help those youths earn their diplomas. NY1's Education reporter Lindsey Christ filed the following report.

Brooklyn Democracy Academy in Brownsville, Brooklyn is one of 16 so-called "transfer schools" that have opened since 2005. The 200 students there not only answer to the teachers, but also counselors. Each counselor is responsible for 25 children, and if anyone of them is late, the counselor tracks them down.

"There is no reason to cut because they call your house in the morning if you don't come to school," says student Shanae Mack.

For more than three decades, there have been alternative high schools for at-risk students, but transfer schools are different. They are run as a partnership between the DOE and a community organization that pays for the counselors. It's a recognition that students' emotional needs may be just as important as their academics.

"In the past, there was social services and DOE, both had issues they couldn't quite fix. But we're pairing the two together, and enabling them to work together as a partnership," says Principal Thomas McKenna. "It really creates a different style of school and we're really meet the needs of some really needy kids."

Brooklyn Democracy opened in 2008 amidst controversy. Members of the neighborhood questioned opening a transfer high school in the same building as an elementary school for students with special needs and a middle school.

Now, the principal of the elementary school says things have worked out well. The transfer schools are selective, and all students who want to attend have to show they are committed to graduating and can handle the longer days and class periods that it takes to make up for lost time.

"Each student is given an individual interview and then every student is also required to bring in a family member or a trusted adult who is willing to partner with them," says school director Cherise Littlejohn-Ross.

Transfer students can also earn minimum wage in a city program that provides internships after school.

The annual budget for Brooklyn Democracy alone is $1.4 million. All costs beyond a typical school's budget are picked up by the community organization and other funders, like the Gates Foundation. Early indications show such programs might be the type of school that can turn potential dropouts into graduates.

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