Program targets drop-out rates


Staff Writer

Sunday, April 16, 2017

North East Carolina Prep School is planning to implement a new program that will improve drop-out rates before their first senior class even graduates.

The new program, called Peer Group Connection, will pair incoming high school freshman with junior and senior mentors next year in an attempt to make the transition to high school less stressful for ninth-grade students. When the program is implemented in the fall, North East Carolina Prep will be the only school in Edgecombe County to offer a Peer Group Connection program.

Dr. Pattie Sander-Smith, the principal of the high school at North East Carolina Prep, said the program will provide upperclassmen with the opportunity to develop leadership skills, teamwork and problem-solving ability even as they help freshmen learn to resolve stress and stand up to peer pressure.

“North East Carolina Prep is committed to supporting students and helping them become successful,” Sanders-Smith said. “Being a Peer Group Connection school will allow a further level of support for our Husky Scholars and assist in the freshman transition.”

Peer Group Connection is an initiative started by the Center for Supportive Schools that supports and eases students’ successful transition from middle school to high school. The program taps into the power of high school juniors and seniors to create a nurturing environment for incoming freshmen, the press release said.

North East Carolina Prep, Edgecombe County’s only charter school, offers grades K- 12 for the first time this year. The charter school is structured so that the high school meets in a separate building on the campus under its own administrative team. 

As part of the Peer Group Connection program, upperclassmen peer leaders will meet twice a week with groups of 10-14 freshmen in outreach sessions designed to strengthen relationships across grade levels. At the same time, these selected peer leaders will be enrolled in a daily, year-long honors leadership course taught by school faculty for which they will earn high school credit.

School leaders at North Carolina Prep school say there is strong evidence to support the expected impact of Peer Group Connection. A study, conducted by Rutgers University and funded by the U.S.Department of Health and Human Services, found that Peer Group Connections improved the graduation rates of student participants in an inner city public school by 10 percentage points and cut by half the number of male students who would otherwise have dropped out.

Peer Group Connection was developed by the Center for Supportive Schools, an organization founded in 1979 which professes to have a history of changing life trajectories for students and affecting cultural transformations within schools.