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Online Classes Give San Francisco High School Kids a Second Chance

Like virtually all urban centers, San Francisco has a unified school district that is belabored with students who were not raised in a learning environment. Some of these kids come to high school with little interest in the academics; some lose a year to peer distractions or drug use.

The resulting Ds and Fs of that lost year keeps most of those marginal students out of college, even if they grow up enough to understand that education is the way to a better life. In San Francisco, the district has found a way to upgrade those Ds and Fs so that graduating students have a shot at a college education.

Since December Galileo High School has been using a program called Cyber High which is administered by the Fresno Department of Education, in a city 200 miles away. Cyber High allows students with require core courses to make up the option to take online education courses either through a computer at home or one at Galileo.

Galileo Assistant Principal Nancy Lambert told the San Francisco Chronicle that Cyber High "��made college a possibility for students that wouldn't have been able to go." The other important point that school administrators see in this program is that it gives students who are behind in gaining the essential credits for graduation an opportunity to make them up - which in turn reduces the dropout rate.

Theses are not AP classes; all courses offered on Cyber High meet core educational requirements for the California State University system. It's a second chance for students who come to realize that the quality of life after high school is often dictated by education. It's also not a commitment to four more years of education, an intimidating prospect for many kids; Cyber High merely provides students a chance to walk with their class and consider college as an option.

The San Francisco school district purchased licensing for Cyber High for all of its high schools; usage thus far has yet to expand across the city. But for Galileo, a school that is constantly struggling with dropout rates, the results have been gratifying. In 2009, 56% of its graduates were heading off to a four year college, up from 41% the year before. Assistant Principal Lambert feels that Cyber High has made a difference.

Hidden in that statistic is the number of students who decided to stay in school because of the Cyber High option and may be headed for two year programs at local community colleges. And perhaps the most important intangible is the fact that students are learning how to use distance learning during high school, a skill that may prove valuable as they move into the work force and want to pursue further educational aspirations.

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