Berkeley County School District, Moncks Corner, South Carolina
Challenge: In 2009, Berkeley County School District had a 67.3 percent graduation rate as students struggled with truancy, discipline and falling behind grade level.
Initiative: The STAR Academy gives students the opportunity to return to grade level while they and their families receive wraparound support through attendance and discipline intervention. While all STAR Academies implement a modified curriculum, the Berkeley County version includes a dress code, character education, parent information nights, guest speakers, a positive behavior intervention system, mentors and communication lessons. A career exploration component gives students first choice of CTE classes when they enter 10th grade.
Impact: Since implementing STAR Academy, the district graduation rate has risen from 67.3 percent to 83.5 percent. STAR Academy students miss an average of only 3.5 days per year, and their attendance has improved 62 percent by their grade 7 year. Discipline infractions have been reduced by 75 percent.
Advice: “The most important aspect of a successful STAR Academy is staff,” says Jonah Bryant, STAR Academy director. Teachers, administrators and guidance counselors must be student-centered and able to create positive relationships.