It was a bright and sunny afternoon back on June 5 as Dover High School’s Class of 2013 received their diplomas. However 28 of those students would not have been able to take that long-awaited walk across the stage if they hadn’t had an extra bit of Daylight.
Dover High was recognized June 26 for the success of those students, who graduated after five months of intensive online work that gave them the credits they needed to finish their studies.
The program, nicknamed Daylight, gave failing seniors a chance to make up lost credits during school hours. It is the twin of the school’s successful Twilight program, which offers the same opportunities in after-school sessions.
“Some of the students were very far behind,” said Dr. Evelyn A. Edney, co-principal for administration at Dover High. “Some just needed a few credits to be eligible to graduate.”
Working with the Virginia-based Edmentum company, which developed the computer-based online courseware now in use in a number of schools across the country, Dover High only began the program in January, meaning those students had less than a half year to make up more than a year’s worth of work.
The program enrolled 33 students; of those, five were unable to complete the curriculum in time for graduation, and are now enrolled in summer school Edney said. The rest graduated last month with their peers.
Students in the program came from a variety of backgrounds. Some had various problems that kept them from studying, some hadn’t realized the importance of a high school diploma and some very bright students simply were bored with the normal school curriculum.
“A lot of them are highly intelligent, they just weren’t learning in the way they learned best,” Edney said.
Students enrolled in the program signed a contract saying they’d work hard, wouldn’t be late or absent and wouldn’t be behavior problems. Parents also signed the contract and were kept advised of their child’s progress.
Edney also received daily updates and passed that information on to administrators at the Capital School District.
Perhaps the most important part of the program was the man who ran it, James Bailey, who came to Dover High with 34 years of teaching experience in the New Jersey school system.
Bailey’s approach was somewhat of a cross between an inspirational speaker and a Marine Corps drill instructor: he worked to help ensure the students’ success, but would brook no excuses when it came to not doing the work.
“I’ve been there, I’ve done that, I’ve seen most of the excuses students can come up with,” he said.
“We knew we had the right person for the job,” Edney said. “He is someone who wouldn’t take any excuses but also is someone who would motivate them.”
The result was that students who initially had little in common except failing grades soon bonded and supported each other. At the beginning of the program, many sat apart from each other; by the end, they’d often be sitting together, helping and sometimes mentoring each other.
The results were clear: not only did they earn the credits needed to graduate, they became a cohesive unit, each willing to work for the betterment of the other.
It all came to fruition on June 5.
“Probably the biggest thing for me was at graduation, when some of these kids went up to the stage, you could hear the others shouting, ‘Daylight! Daylight!’” Edney said.
“It just made me so proud.”