Racine Alternative Education offers students who fall behind not just a chance to catch up, but a chance to succeed.

RAE at its core is a credit recovery program; students who fall behind at their home school can attend class at RAE to make up what they’re missing. The average RAE student is either a junior or a senior, though some participants are older and have aged out of their home school.

The reasons students fall behind are as varied as the students themselves.

“Students who attend RAE have fallen behind because of a life-altering situation like absent or deceased parents, homelessness, early parenthood or even because they experience too much anxiety in larger settings,” Deputy Superintendent Dr. Eric Gallien said. “We offer smaller classes, more individualized attention and a custom class schedule in a routine that’s much less rigid than our traditional high school structure.”

Math teacher Adam Beyer talked about a former student who fell behind because English wasn’t her native language, and she was having trouble grasping the vocabulary of math. Because RAE offers smaller student-to-teacher ratios, instructors identified the student’s issue and had the time to work with her.

“The biggest benefit we have here is that we are a small program so teachers can meet kids where they’re at, address their needs and establish really strong relationships,” Beyer said. “We had the time to make sure that young lady could succeed.”

Students referred to Racine Alternative Education are evaluated to determine what they need, so they get a program designed just for them that can be a mix of digital platforms, online classes and traditional classrooms. Some students might be behind but also have the skills to test out of certain subjects, which keeps their plan on track and focused on recovering their lost credits with graduation as the ultimate goal.

Beyer said there are counselors available to help students make plans after graduation, and a life skills elective is assigned to help with things like writing a resume, how to successfully tackle a job interview and filling out financial aid for higher education.

Since the Mack Center split in January 2014 into Racine Alternative Education and Turning Point Academy, Gallien estimates that RAE has retained upwards of 100 students who might have dropped out altogether.

“It’s hard enough to succeed even when you have a high school diploma,” he noted. “Without graduating at all, your chances of success go down exponentially.”

**Editor’s Note: This is the first of several stories focusing on the Racine Alternative Education program.

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