District 51 broadens program that counters grade, attendance woes

A School District 51 program that helps Hispanic students improve grades and attendance is broadening its focus to help all students.

Latino Education Achievement to Graduation (LEAG) is changing its name to Leadership for Education, Achievement and Graduation this fall. The program will have all of the same requirements for assistance, including a 1.5 to 2.4 grade-point average and less than 90 percent attendance. The only difference is students no longer have to be Hispanic to join.

LEAG has offered help and guidance to Hispanic middle school and high school students since 1997, according to Susana Wittrock, District 51 executive director of equity and minority student success. The program works to improve students’ attendance and academic performance by hosting monthly group meetings and one-on-one meetings between individual students and LEAG advocates as needed.

“What we’re really looking at is opening up what we’ve offered to Hispanic students to any student,” Wittrock said.

Each local high school and middle school has a LEAG advocate, an adult employed by the school district. Advocates provide a link between the student, his or her parents, and the school; develop a plan with the student for how he or she can succeed; help students reach goals in school; and monitor attendance and visit students’ homes to see why they’re not coming to school if they miss many classes.

Although Hispanic District 51 students overall had a 64 percent graduation rate in 2009, students who participated in LEAG had a 92 percent graduation rate the same year. Of the 1,055 students who participated in LEAG in 2009-10, 87.5 percent improved their attendance to 90 percent or better.

Wittrock said the school district is seeing more non-Hispanic minorities and more students in general looking for the type of help offered by LEAG. She said nonminority students have asked LEAG for help before, and that led to the idea of opening up the program to more students.

“There’s no time like the present to really meet those needs,” she said.

Students can join LEAG at any time during the school year by visiting a school’s LEAG office, talking to a school employee, or having a parent refer them for the program.


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