Alternative School Reduces Truancy

Dorothy Rowley | 2/20/2013, 9:53 a.m.

Luke C. Moore High School Sets the Standard

Three years ago, Makia Baugh had practically given up on school. She rarely attended classes, and when she did, her attention span proved to be next to nothing and she had absolutely no interest in learning.

The entire time she was enrolled at Cardozo Senior High School in Northwest, her nonchalant attitude toward education eventually led to other issues, and brought a screeching halt to her childhood.

But then one day, Baugh experienced an epiphany.

"I wanted to change my life," said Baugh, 20. "I realized that because I had a child, I had to do something to better her life and mine."

She soon learned about Luke C. Moore (LCM) High School in Northeast, which affords truant and other troubled youth an alternative solution to completing their high school education and earning a diploma. She liked what LCM had to offer, especially its Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps program or JROTC - which Baugh said she felt might help her to become more disciplined.

Meanwhile, Kendra Hall had already dropped out of Spingarn Senior High School in Northeast after becoming pregnant.

But even before, Hall, also now 20, often skipped school.

"Sometimes, when I felt like going, I'd go," Hall said with a shrug. "At other times, when I didn't feel like going, I wouldn't."

The turning point for Hall proved to be her older brother, who had also dropped out of high school but took advantage of an opportunity. He enrolled in LCM. Hall decided to follow her brother's lead.

Through an individualized program that addresses academic, social and emotional needs, LCM provides a high-quality secondary educational setting for youth ages 17-20 who had previously dropped out of high school.

Hall hit the books for the second time around in 2011. She liked the manner in which the staff and faculty reinforced the importance of completing their high school education and embarking upon a successful career path. But it could only be done by attending classes regularly.

"They really help students with special needs," Hall said. "They give us extra homework and help recover [academic] credits lost from dropping out [of our previous high schools]."

Every day, some 2,000 middle and high school students in the District of Columbia Public School (DCPS) system are designated as truant. The issue however, has been a long-standing, nationwide concern that has captured the attention of President Barack Obama's administration. But the problem in the District has become so dire that Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson referred to it as "a crisis." For example, reports, state that truancy among students who attend Spingarn, Roosevelt, Ballou and Anacostia high schools has reached 40 percent.

In an effort to encourage students like Hall and Baugh to attend school on a daily basis and eventually join their peers at commencement exercises, LCM offers through its "New Heights" program, an on-site day care that accommodates up to eight children. Only students who are enrolled at LCM can participate.

Today, both young ladies not only eagerly anticipate donning their caps and gowns in June, but both have brighter visions of their futures. While Hall will enroll in a community college, Baugh has her sights set on becoming a paramedic or firefighter.