2006 Crystal Star Award Recipients

2006 National Dropout Prevention Network Crystal Star Awards of Excellence Program Winners

The Academy of Creative Education (ACE)
North East Independent School District, San Antonio, Texas

ACE is recognized as one of the premier alternative schools in Texas. Since its beginning in 1991, the Academy has helped nearly 3,000 formerly-designated dropouts succeed and graduate. Curriculum is based on innovative approaches which are uniquely suited to meet the needs, abilities, interests, and backgrounds of the students. All students are treated as though they are gifted and are expected to achieve above 80% mastery on all assignments. Student-led conferences provide students with the opportunity to chart their progress through the presentation of a portfolio of their work. Each student and staff member writes a mission statement of goals and purposes which is displayed at ACE. Students are accepted from each of the six traditional high schools in the metropolitan district. The Academy has graduated 2,666 students since its beginning, and in 2004-05, 37 graduates were designated Texas Scholars. Students taking the Spring TAKS had a 100% pass rate. ACE has over fifty community partners, some of whom serve on the Academy Advisory Corporate Council. The State Board of Education’s Heroes for Children Award has been given on two separate occasions to ACE tutors/mentors. The Academy educators design and develop alternative academic approaches with varied learning environments and flexible “no-bells” scheduling. Each educator is multi-certified, and seasoned staff members mentor new teachers for one full year.

Lessons Learned:

There is a growing population of non-traditional students in need of services.
Students learn to work as a team toward success and to accept the unique talents of each other through the Academy’s twenty-hour orientation program that features a relaxed family-like atmosphere.
A strong award-winning mentorship program provides a direct link to the outside community, and enhances students’ self-esteem.
An integrated interdisciplinary curriculum that addresses all learning styles gives students at the Academy an understanding that all learning is connected.
Giving back to others through community service allows students to demonstrate their many and varied talents.
Two student-led graduations provide a visual celebration as the culmination of successful goal attainment for both parents and students.
Small classes, self-paced curriculum and individualization influence students to meet the needs of the community.
Staff development is planned and implemented by the entire faculty.
Ongoing technology training ensures that the Academy team stays open to and aware of technology-enriched innovative approaches to curriculum development.

Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) Academy for Excellence
Fayette County Public Schools, Lexington, Kentucky

The Academy, an alternative program for grades six through twelve, was established to serve students with behavioral challenges and academic concerns. It is a multi-faceted program made up of a remedial behavioral focused component, as well as programs designed to allow students who have fallen behind academically or who have not been successful in a regular middle or high school setting to make progress. Social workers make home visits and teachers are in frequent contact with parents. Components include middle school transition, credit recovery, and GED prep programs. The Middle School Transition Program is designed for students who read on at least a sixth grade level and are two or more years behind. The Credit Recovery Program focuses on high school students who read on at least a ninth grade level and are one or more years behind their peers. The program combines computer-based instruction and cooperative work experience or vocational training. A full school day requires students to attend one of three sessions: morning, afternoon, or evening, and participate in a practical experience componenet. Technology is a major component of the instruction program with coursework available through eSchool. The Academy offers most of these programs in the district’s other middle and high schools, also. Students participate in both sides of the mentoring/tutoring experience. Athletes at the University of Kentucky serve as mentors, as do Academy staff members. Students also serve as mentors for special needs students at nearby elementary schools. Extended School Services are offered every Wednesday, and summer school is available for 8th and some 7th grade students to make up classes in order to be promoted to the next grade. The staff of MLK participate in extensive on-going professional development on classroom management and effective instructional strategies. In addition to professional development days scheduled by the district, the staff meets every Tuesday for one hour after school for additional professional development on topics identified by school test scores and administrative observation. From 2000 to 2005, the number of students earning a high school diploma increased from 2 to almost 200. During the 2004-05 school year, the percentage of students reading at or above grade increased from 16% to 52%.

Lessons Learned:

Teachers must be certified in the area in which they are teaching.
Staff must be trained in the program’s behavior management system and instructional strategies before school starts.
Instructional use of technology is very valuable, particularly real world applications.
Sufficient student support must be available: a social worker, a school psychologist, a behavior curriculum specialist, and a youth service center coordinator.
Gender specific classes have been beneficial in the middle school environment.
A referral process that assists schools in trying to solve problems and attempting to modify behaviors before sending students to an alternative setting is important.

Providing Hope
South Sioux City Community School District (SSCCS), South Sioux City, Nebraska

The goal of SSCCS is to provide a climate that promotes not only academic success, but also social, emotional, and behavioral success in a safe, secure, and disciplined school environment. Program elements include an alternative high school, a school-within-a-school middle school, a language enriched preschool, early reading first, parent advisory committees, community collaboration and partnerships, and service-learning. Data show the graduation rate has increased 11% over the last four years, while the dropout rate has decreased 4.4% in the last five years, 84% of students transitioning back from out-of-home placements are successful three months post-transition. Attendance at the alternative school’s quarterly parent/teacher conferences is 93%. The district has addressed a number of student population issues: enrollment has increased by over 40% in the past 15 years; Hispanic population has increased by 346% in the past ten years; the number of students on free/reduced lunch has increased to 44.41% in the past five years; and the percentage of English Language Learners is almost 24%, four times higher than the Nebraska state average. Only 12.4% of the adults in the community have a college degree, 27% did not graduate from high school, and over half of those individuals have less than a ninth grade education. Systemic renewal provided the foundation for addressing concerns related to on-going student success. Changes made included restructuring the Special Education Department into the Student Services Department to offer a more cohesive array of support services; implementing student assistance teams who receive an annual stipend; strategic use of data for decision making; connections with mental health, social service agencies, juvenile justice, and the business community; and an advisory committee of teachers, students, parents, administrators, school board members, and community members. The emphasis on literacy has had a remarkable impact on seventh and eighth grade standardized reading test scores. The percentage of students reading above the U.S. average increased from 32.21% in 2002-2003 to 45.32% in 2004-2005. Students in grades 4, 8, and 12 exceeded the average state results on the standardized math test. Students have also shown significant gains on the statewide writing assessment. Dropout rates have declined from 6.20% in 1999-2000, to 1.81% in 2002-2005.

Lessons Learned:

Nothing is ever truly achieved unless it is approached from a systemic perspective.
Multiple approaches to meet the academic, social, and emotional needs of young people are needed, and intervention should occur at the earliest possible time.
To be successful, relationships must be built and sustained.
A culture of acceptance and support should be established.
Data must be gathered, analyzed and utilized.
Professional development is vital for educators, administrators, and support personnel. Nothing is more deleterious to a person than to ask them to work in a vacuum, to “assume” that they know how to implement a program, deliver a lesson, or intervene with an at-risk student.

2006 National Dropout Prevention Network Crystal Star Awards of Excellence Individual Winners

Dr. Patricia Cloud Duttweiler

Dr. Duttweiler joined the National Dropout Prevention Center (NDPC) at Clemson University as Assistant Director in 1992. She retired in 2001, but has continued to work as a consultant for the Center, coordinating the year-long Program Assessment and Review (PAR) of 13 New York State middle schools identified as under performing. Dr. Duttweiler is currently the Secretary of the Advisory Council for the Academy of Creative Education, North East Independent School District, San Antonio, Texas, and was on the planning committee for this conference. Among her responsibilities while at NDPC, were being the principal investigator and evaluator for a Students Serving Students grant from the Corporation for National Service, and project coordinator for the SERVE (U.S. Department of Education regional educational laboratory for the Southeastern Region) research project in South Carolina. She conducted assessments and/or case studies for the Southern Institute for Service-Learning, Centerville Elementary School’s dropout prevention program, Chattanooga City School’s student support system, NBA Stay in School and TeamUp Programs, and the National Urban League/Junior Achievement BEC program. Before joining the Center, Dr. Duttweiler was Assistant Director for Research at the South Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching and School Leadership at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina; a Senior Research Associate with the Southwest Educational Development Laboratory (SEDL) in Austin, Texas; a training evaluation specialist with the University of Georgia Center for Continuing Education; and a classroom teacher.

Dr. Mar√≠a “Cuca” Robledo Montecel
Intercultural Development Research Association (IDRA), San Antonio, Texas

Dr. Montecel is Executive Director of the Intercultural Development Research Association (IDRA), an independent, private non-profit organization dedicated to equity and excellence in education located in San Antonio, Texas. A nationally-recognized expert on the prevention and recovery of dropouts, Dr. Robledo Montecel directed the first statewide study of dropouts in Texas. The study examined the scope and economic impact of the dropout problem, and the results informed the development of dropout prevention policy and practice in the state. She was a member of the task force that established the National Dropout Prevention Network. Under her leadership, IDRA’s innovative dropout prevention program, the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program, has made a visible difference in the lives of more than 419,000 children, families and educators. Dr. Robledo Montecel has authored and co-authored a number of publications focusing on effective bilingual education, school holding power, and parent leadership. She served as a member of the Texas Task Force on Dropout Prevention and as a consultant on The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s Program in Immigrant Education. Hispanic Business magazine named her one of the top 100 Hispanic influentials. Dr. Robledo Montecel is an associate member of Hispanics in Philanthropy; a founding member of CIVICUS World Alliance for Citizen Participation; and on the founding board of directors of the Mexican and American Solidarity Foundation, an organization created to strengthen ties between Mexican citizens and the Mexican American community. She was named a Women and Minorities Research Fellow by the National Institute of Education.

Ms. Valerie A. Woodruff
Secretary of Education, Delaware Department of Education, Dover, Delaware

Ms. Woodruff has served as Secretary of Education since July 1999. She has been a teacher, counselor, assistant principal, and principal in high schools in Maryland and Delaware. She led the development of the first School-Based Wellness Center in Delaware, and as a result of her pioneering effort 28 out of 29 high schools now have these Centers. She currently serves as a member of the Delaware Workforce Investment Board and its Youth Council, Jobs for Delaware Graduates, Junior Achievement, Delaware Region National Council for Community and Justice, the State Chamber of Commerce Partnership. She is Delaware’s representative on the Southern Regional Education Board, and is the first K-12 educator to serve as Vice Chair. Ms. Woodruff is currently chair of the Council of Chief State School Officers. She has led the development of a P-20 Council to address the needs of students from preschool through college or post secondary training. Ms. Woodruff instituted improved leadership training and opportunities for “Rising Stars” in education. Secretary Woodruff also established the Dropout Prevention Committee which consists of school administrators, visiting teachers, guidance counselors, social workers, community leaders, and Department of Education staff who are responsible for addressing issues that result in students leaving school before graduation. She has served as a Thomson Fellow for the Coalition of Essential Schools, and was selected as Delaware’s Principal of the Year in 1990.


2006 Crystal Star Award for Students with Disabilities Individual Award

Ms. Suana Wessendorf
State consultant for Behavior Disorders, Bureau of Children, Family and Community Services, the Iowa Department of Education, Des Moines, Iowa

Ms. Wessendorf’s key responsibilities include: behavior disorders, children’s mental health, brain injury, suspension and expulsion, graduation, dropout, learning supports, and Positive Behavioral Supports (PBS). As project manager for the Iowa Behavioral Alliance, an initiative with the Iowa Department of Education, Ms. Wessendorf oversees the work of the Alliance that covers three domains, Positive Behavioral Supports (PBS), Graduation/Dropout, and School-Based Children’s Mental Health. She has been a teacher of special education at the elementary and secondary level and is a university lecturer for Iowa State University. Ms. Wessendorf has presented extensively and published numerous documents and articles for the Iowa Department of Education regarding national and state special education legislation, dropout prevention, and Positive Behavioral Supports (PBS) in many settings including correctional facilities. She was elected and served as the International President of the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) as well as many other CEC state and local positions.


2006 Crystal Star Award of Excellence Distinguished Leadership and Service

Dr. Jay Smink
Executive Director, National Dropout Prevention Center, Clemson, South Carolina

Dr. Smink has been the Executive Director of the National Dropout Prevention Center located at Clemson University since 1986, as well as a Professor of Education in the College of Health, Education, and Human Development. He also serves as the Executive Director of the National Dropout Prevention Network, a professional organization of members representing education, business, and community leaders who are concerned with school dropout issues. Dr. Smink’s 47-year career includes a strong background in public education programs at the state and local levels and a unique series of experiences as a small business owner. He has conducted many national and regional workshops for administrators and teachers on a wide range of instructional, management, and leadership issues, and is a frequent guest on television and radio talk shows. Dr. Smink has authored many articles for journals, newsletters, and numerous professional monographs and books on a wide range of topics concerned with research, school reform, and teaching skills targeted for the improvement of basic academic skills and achievement levels of students. He is a recognized national leader and authority on truancy and dropout prevention, mentoring, alternative schools, after-school programs, learning styles, service- learning, school-to-work, vocational education research, safe school environments, project evaluation and accountability, education marketing and dissemination and program management. Dr. Smink has served on numerous national and state boards including the American Bar Association Advisory Commission on Youth Alcohol and other Drug Problems, National Association for Industry-Education Cooperative, the National Mentoring Partnership, the Center for Career and Technical Education at The Ohio State University, and the South Carolina Commission on National and Community Service.