A Resource Guide of Best Practices for Pregnant and Parenting Teen Programs
Title IX of the Federal Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits the expulsion or exclusion of students from any program, course or extracurricular activities solely on the basis of pregnancy or parenthood, regardless of marital status. Additionally, Pennsylvania State Board of Education regulations provide similar assurances for these students. Beyond satisfying the legal obligation to educate these students, school districts are encouraged to develop policies and programming to meet the unique needs of pregnant and parenting teenagers so that they can complete their education, become productive members of their communities, and lessen the likelihood of their economic dependence on society.
Pregnant and parenting teens face significant barriers to academic achievement, largely because traditional school programs often conflict with the demands of pregnancy and child rearing. A primary goal of school-based programs for teen parents is to facilitate long-term self-sufficiency of young families. While graduating from high school is no guarantee of economic independence, without a diploma adolescent parents are more likely to spend long periods of time in poverty or dependent on public assistance. In order for teens to reach the goal of graduation, schools need to provide quality, flexible educational programs and environments that foster success.
To reduce the number of pregnant and parenting teens who drop out, schools can introduce and enforce policies and practices that encourage and create ways for pregnant and parenting teens to remain in school and complete their high school education. Key changes in school policies and practices can include flexible scheduling and crediting, flexible attendance policies, and access to alternative education options that allow students to earn credits in creative ways.
Comprehensive Schools vs. Alternative Education Programs
Effective services to teen parents can be provided in various ways using any one of these successful models:
Staff are located within the comprehensive school and services are provided directly or in collaboration with community agencies.
Intermediate Unit Model
Staff and services are provided by the intermediate unit to a consortium of schools and vocational-technical schools on an itinerant basis. This can be an effective model in terms of cost and programming for schools.
Alternative Schools/School Within-a-School Model
This model may be appropriate in situations where attendance in a regular school program is not appropriate or possible. Advantages include the ability to provide small group and individual education as well as intensive individual services. Alternative education settings can be very effective in meeting the needs of teen parents. However, the Pennsylvania Department of Education maintains that in most situations the appropriate course of action is to assist teen parents to remain in the mainstream of the regular school program whenever possible.
Scheduling and Attendance
Simply altering the regular school hours can help to improve the attendance and performance of adolescent parents. This can include a variety of changes such as the following:
Offering more flexible starting times for teen parents allows ample time for them to feed, bathe and clothe their children as well as themselves. This increases the probability that they will arrive at school and be ready to put in a full day's work.
Ending the school day later in the afternoon in conjunction with a late start also allows students time for scheduling health and social service appointments while reducing the need to miss the entire school day.
Providing space and allowing time for some social service agencies, for example, Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), to conduct appointments on-site during the school day will help to reduce attendance problems.
Reducing class schedules to include only courses necessary for graduation gives students more opportunities to obtain part-time employment.
Varied strategies have been developed to give students opportunities to meet credit accumulation and graduation requirements in ways that differ from those of other students while reflecting academic achievement, skill mastery and knowledge accumulation.
Credits are awarded once students demonstrate mastery of the material rather than on the basis of attendance over the course of the school year. Contrary to many traditional policies, students in such a system are not automatically failed after missing a specified number of school days.
Students move through the material at their own pace. Some students proceed more quickly, enabling them to graduate on or ahead of schedule while others who find it more difficult to keep up with the regular pace of school can proceed more slowly, continuing to make progress toward graduation.
This is an option for those students who are behind in credits and need to make up classes previously failed or for students who find difficulty attending school during traditional hours. Night school classes may also be offered to students who desire to work ahead toward early graduation.
Summer School and Saturday Classes
This option also provides an opportunity to make up courses previously failed or to accelerate the expected date of graduation.
Home Study or Homebound Instruction
Home study instruction can be offered in most school districts to help students keep up with course work during childbirth and the postpartum period. Homebound instruction can also be used with students who are placed on bed rest, for medical reasons, prior to delivery.
Home study is an important mechanism for keeping females from falling behind. However, schools have grappled with several issues in determining the optimum length of time for students to spend in home instruction. In the interest of maintaining students' connection to school, some experts believe that females should return to regular classes as soon as two weeks after delivery. Others argue that allowing them a longer leave provides more time for bonding with their babies. Policies regarding the time frame in which students are to return to school after delivery should be consistent with state licensing regulations that sometimes require that infants be at least six weeks old before they will be accepted into a licensed child care facility.
Makeup Classes during Lunch Period or Before/After School
This arrangement provides an opportunity to make up previously failed classes or to obtain additional credits toward accelerated graduation.
Links with Other Institutions
Students are afforded the opportunity to enroll in a variety of courses not offered at their home school and may also be permitted to accumulate credits necessary for college admission or to meet vocational goals. Issues of conflict in schedules between schools and transportation from one program to another may need to be explored.
Creative Course Development
Combining material typically taught in two separate courses allows a small number of teachers to offer a wider range of classes. This arrangement may also free time in students' schedules to take required courses or courses not previously available to them. Classes can be structured so that students earn credits for two classes simultaneously.
Community or Schools Service for School Credit
A student can work without pay either in the school, perhaps as an aide in the library, or in the community, as a volunteer, and receive school credits for the hours worked. Verification from the work site can be provided to the school and credits can be awarded on a consistent scale such as 60 hours = 1/2 credit, 120 hours = 1 credit, etc. A maximum limit of credits to be earned can be set.
Seminars, Workshops, Life Skills Training and Field trips for Credit
Should a significant number of hours be spent in such programming, credits can be awarded. Participation should be pre-approved by the school and verified prior to awarding credits.
This can be arranged with teachers who are willing to guide students through materials and supervise progress. Pre- and post-tests can be administered to assess mastery of the material.
This program is offered as a creative way to earn credits and gain work experience. Recruitment for mentor volunteers can be done through various community organizations and business partnerships. Teen parents can again earn credits for successful completion of a specified number of hours of participation with their mentor.
Summer recess can also provide an opportunity to implement programming for personal enrichment or, if desired, school credit. It can likewise be used to offer a continuum of services and encourage students to remain involved with the Pregnant and Parenting Teen Program. The connection between school/support staff and pregnant and parenting students can be maintained while providing students with an opportunity to learn more about themselves and their babies outside of the traditional classroom setting.
Parents and their children together attend a week-long program, for example, which is an excellent means for informally teaching parents how to positively interact with their children and to enjoy themselves as a family.
Students can participate in informational seminars that expose them to materials that are not typically covered in school.
Opportunities to travel to various places of interest in the area and a chance to spend time socializing with other teen parents are presented.
Links With Community Agencies
Referring students to programs that are operating within their community can insure that they are receiving support services throughout the summer months right in their home or neighborhood.
Providing child care services through the summer can insure that children of teen parents receive consistency in social development and early childhood programming. This also will free teen parents to secure summer jobs while their children will be provided with quality child care services.
Parenting /Early Childhood Development Classes
Instruction can be offered in conjunction with neighborhood agencies or family support centers with incentives for participation provided for each teen parent.
Personal contacts on a monthly basis by case managers, for example, will offer a continuum of care and support regardless of summer recess. This also will help track participants and promote their return to school the following year.
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last updated April 27, 1999
Center for Schools & Communities