Excel Alternative Schools
Excel Alternative Schools, a part of the ResCare, Inc. family, has been providing quality programs in the alternative education field since 1994. Excel has a successful history of offering diverse and high quality alternative educational services utilizing a proven program model that has consistently exceeded student achievement, district partner, and cost effectiveness expectations.
Utilizing a variety of approaches that includes direct instruction, consultation, and case management, Excel provides services for at-risk students in alternative education and juvenile justice programs. In each of our program models, we provide a caring, attentive environment that is conducive to learning. We teach youth to continually assess their strengths and build on their successes. Our goal is to build a balance between character, body and mind.
To accomplish this mission, Excel’s philosophical approach provides quality alternative education programs for at-risk youth rooted in the teachings of William Glasser and John Dewey. Excel’s focus is relationship-based, with the greatest emphasis placed on identifying and meeting the needs of our students. This needs-based approach, while emphasizing academics, places a priority on the “whole” child, rather than solely focusing on academic performance.
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The Excel Student/Youth
Excel Schools serve a dynamic population of students in both rural and urban settings. While each population is unique, there are multiple commonalities exhibited by Excel students. Excel is sensitive to the environments from which our students come to us, including out of home placement, and we work diligently to serve the needs of whole student. Characteristics of the Excel youth include:
- Juvenile justice involvement
- Significant involvement with social services
- High rate of participation in the free and reduced lunch program
- Significant participation in Title I
- Multiple discipline referrals
- One or more years below grade level in reading and math
- History of truancy
- Need for wrap-around support services
- Assistance with transition from residential commitment back to community based education
The Excel Model
Excel’s philosophical approach to providing quality alternative education programs for at-risk youth is rooted in the teachings of William Glasser and John Dewey. Excel’s focus is relationship-based, with the greatest emphasis placed on identifying and meeting the needs of our students. This needs-based approach, while emphasizing academics, places a priority on the “whole” child, rather than solely focusing on academic performance. The cornerstone of the Excel model promotes student ownership for their individual success and growth, via the support afforded to them by the program. Students are encouraged to take control of their destiny and progress towards meeting completion requirements. Whether we are providing direct services or working as consultants, Excel is committed to providing an educational environment that enhances and enriches the totality of the educational experience of each student and parent.
The Excel instructional methodology is grounded in the Paideia model. There are three columns of instruction that are emphasized in a Paideia classroom: Didactic, Coaching and Seminar. Excel is experienced in following state and district standards that emphasize performance and require assessments to test students’ mastery of core academic concepts. Many students want to graduate, but find the obstacles overwhelming. Our goal is to bridge the gap for students and to make graduation a reachable goal.
- Computer Based Instruction Model (CBI): Expelled or Long Term Suspended
- Computer Based Instruction (CBI): Drop Out Recovery
- Traditional School Model (Full Day)
- Consultative Model
- Juvenile Justice Transition Program
Computer Based Model (CBI): Expelled or Long Term Suspended
This blended learning environment utilizes a computer based curriculum along with supplemental programming to drive curriculum. This blend of on-site, small-group direct instruction and online courses combine to deliver tailored instruction and support for each student’s individual needs By shortening the day, while at the same time allowing access to all core content, we have changed the academic experience. In addition, the computer based model focuses on the physical elements needed for the visual, tactile and kinesthetic learners.
Computer Based Instructional (CBI): Drop Out Recovery
Excel Achievement Center is Excel’s dropout prevention and recovery program, developed to address the needs of these students. The program is designed for individuals between the ages of 13-21 who have already left the school system or who are at risk of leaving, and want to earn a standard high school diploma or GED. This blended learning environment utilizes a computer based curriculum along with supplemental programming to drive curriculum and student persistence.
At-risk students often face demands outside of school that make full-time, traditional classes difficult to attend. Excel is designed with maximal flexibility in order to overcome this obstacle. Geographically convenient centers, individualized curriculum plans, onsite and online courses, personalized counseling and coaching, and schedule flexibility accommodate the external demands on students’ time. Scheduling conflicts are eliminated, and students stay on a path to graduation.
Traditional School Model (Full Day)
In Orlando, Florida Excel operates a full service school for expelled students in grades K-12. At this school, which is our largest, we serve upward of 500-600 students a year with an average enrollment of 300. Students take a full array of core and remedial courses and receive direct classroom instruction from state certified teachers. This model offers a more traditional setting with 300 minutes instruction time and a half hour for lunch. Its success comes from the ability to work with expelled or long term suspended students over a time frame of 180-270 days or 2-3 semesters. It is particularly efficient in large districts, like Orange where we are able to centralize our efforts serving as a one stop for all moderate to severe behavior issues.
Excel consultative model is a hybrid model adaptable for all size districts but is particularly effective in smaller districts where a full scope application is neither needed nor cost effective. In Louisiana for example, Excel provided behavior consultative services to St. John and St. James parish school districts. In this setting both districts who neighbored each other joined together in order to help defray costs and attain an enrollment which was appropriate for programming. Excel full time staff worked directly with faculty and students to implement and manage a behavior modification system that encouraged student ownership for their academic achievement.
Juvenile Justice Transition Program
In this model, Excel works with youth returning to their communities and home schools from juvenile justice residential commitment placements. Our case manager’s work collaboratively with a wide range of stakeholders to help a youth find the pathway best suited for them to continue their studies and continue on into post-secondary endeavors. Excel case managers work collaboratively with DJJ Juvenile Probation Officers to ensure that youth are following their transition plans and are able to successfully re-integrate back into their home communities.
The Excel Behavior Model: PBS
In schools where we provide comprehensive services, we have implemented a highly effective, research based behavior management model. Excel is in its second year partnering with the University of South Florida’s Positive Behavioral Support Project. PBS provides an effective alternative to the traditional methods of discipline. One of the foremost advances in school-wide discipline is the emphasis on school-wide systems of support that include proactive strategies for defining, teaching, and supporting appropriate student behaviors to create positive school environments. Instead of using a piecemeal approach of individual behavioral management plans, a continuum of positive behavior support for all students within a school is implemented in areas including the classroom and non-classroom settings (such as hallways, buses, and restrooms).
Positive Behavior Interventions and Support (PBIS) is an application of a behaviorally based systems approach to enhance the capacity of schools, families, and communities to design effective environments that improve the link between research-validated practices and the environments in which teaching and learning occurs. Attention is focused on creating and sustaining primary (school-wide), secondary (classroom), and tertiary (individual) systems of support that improve lifestyle results (personal, health, social, family, work, recreation) for all children and youth by making targeted behaviors less effective, efficient, and relevant, and desired behavior more functional. Excel utilizes the principles of PBIS as the foundation for its behavior management program and utilizes the data collected through its School Wide Information System (SWIS) to drive programmatic decisions.
Excel believes that all students and staff should be involved in developing the school culture. The key to this belief is in finding a natural fit for a student’s skills, and the ability to view them as an individual. Additionally, Excel hires staff that understands this population of students and wants to work in the alternative environment. The use of positive reinforcement through the setting of high expectations for students and staff alike is vital to the model.
Addressing and Addressing Student Needs
The foundation of everything Excel does is rooted in helping the whole child reach his or her greatest potential. From academic guidance through need specific support resources for emotional and other types of counseling, Excel works tirelessly on behalf of its students to ensure access to those services that will support students in their academic and personal experiences.
Excel students bring to school a variety of social and emotional challenges that impair the learning process. This is particularly evident in our juvenile justice involved students. Excel works closely with community based professionals to connect individuals to resources that will meet the needs of our student and family population. These community relationships will include, but not be limited to, social services, public assistance, juvenile justice, and business partnerships. Excel minimizes barriers to services by inviting multiple agencies into our school, providing workspace and access to students and student information. Coordinating with local juvenile probation staff for on-site visits during the school day is an example of this collaborative effort.
Good emotional health helps children learn and succeed socially and academically. Students who need mental health services but lack access are not as likely to succeed academically. Community collaboration is necessary to improve student access to care, and to address issues of ethnic and economic diversity within the school community. Excel works with its district and community partners to promote cultural competence, collaboration, and equity in access to help all Excel families achieve and maintain social and emotional wellness.
It is with the above approach Excel becomes a positive change agent which will improve student achievement in both the academic and social arena working in a collaborative effort which will benefit all stakeholders, most importantly, the youth.