Establishment of Regional Safe Schools and Description of the READY Program:
The Champaign-Ford Regional Office of Education #9 (ROE 9) created the Regional Alternative for Developing Youth (READY) Program in 1998 as a result of state legislation (105 ILCS 5/135). The statewide initiative was to provide an alternative school option for districts in each region of the state. The READY Program is considered a Regional Safe School Program (RSSP) for the state of Illinois. Over 3,000 students were served by RSSP’s across the state of Illinois last year. Currently, there are approximately 70 RSSP program sites in Illinois in urban, suburban, and rural areas across the state.
The Regional Superintendent of Schools is the chief administrative officer for the ROE, and the Director of Alternative Education oversees the school. Funding is provided by a grant from the Illinois State Board of Education, General State Aid, and tuition from participating school districts. Additional federal, state and community grants provide a wide range of supportive services for the students.
The READY Program is home to a diverse student population and covers a two county region (Champaign and Ford Counties), both urban and rural. Students must be referred by their home school, and each district has procedures for the referral process.
The READY Program is located in downtown Champaign, Illinois in the Illinois Terminal Building. The school leases space from the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District.
The cornerstone of the program is to offer a holistic educational program in an alternative school setting that meets the academic, social and emotional needs of its students. Offering academic classes and age appropriate support services, students find pathways to academic, personal and occupational success.
It is not surprising that our students need more support than a traditional school can provide. In most cases, once students come to the READY Program, they begin to feel better about school because of the structure and supports offered at the READY Program. With strong academic classes and a low teacher to student ratio (1:10), social emotional supports, and strong community partnerships, students can begin to feel less hopeless about their future, and they begin to engage fully in school.
The strength of the program comes from the resolve of the staff. Truly committed to teaching and reaching at-risk youth, the staff is the strongest asset of the school. There is very low turnover of staff creating consistency each year; teachers, social workers, behavior specialists, and leadership work to create opportunities students to find academic and social/emotional success.
School Purpose and Mission
The READY Program’s mission and belief statements fulfill the intent of the purpose of providing a high quality alternative education for the students referred to the school. The READY Program’s mission statement is as follows:
READY: Cultivating Change, Transforming Lives
Student’s Belief Statement 1 (Education):
I will work hard to achieve my educational goals now and in the future.
Staff’s Belief Statement 1 (Education):
We will provide a holistic education for all learners in a safe and nurturing environment.
Student’s Belief Statement 2 (Social/Emotional):
I will view challenges as opportunities for growth to cultivate change in all areas of my life.
Staff’s Belief Statement 2 (Social/Emotional):
We will respectfully engage all students at their individual levels, while fostering social and emotional growth.
Student’s Belief Statement 3 (Partnerships):
I will work with my family, school staff and the community to use opportunities to help transform my life.
Staff’s Belief Statement 3 (Partnerships):
We will partner with families, the home school, social service agencies and businesses to strengthen our integrated curriculum and enhance student outcomes.
The purpose of the READY Program is twofold: 1) to increase safety and promote the learning environment in the schools in the community, and 2) to meet the particular educational needs of students more appropriately and individually in alternative educational environment.
Every student who enrolls in the READY Program has a story to tell. Whether a difficult past or an uncertain future, our students need more than a traditional school can offer. We not only educate our students in the required academic classes, but also offer each student a chance to overcome their past and set meaningful goals for the future. Rich in social and emotional learning and a wide range of academic classes, students gain the skills necessary to either return to their home school or graduate and become more prepared for the future.
The school’s mission, Cultivating Change and Transforming Lives, is clear and permeates every aspect of our school. One of the most effective approaches in achieving this mission is demonstrated by the strong staff and student relationships. This was indicated by very high survey scores from the students, staff and parents.
Following our mission is to “respectfully engage all students at their individual levels, while fostering social and emotional growth,” the social workers and behavior specialists provide social and emotional support for our students guided by their Alternative Education Plan. The social workers document student needs and growth on each student’s plan. Each student is assigned a social worker and the extensive list of services and duties provided can be found in the social worker manual. In addition to the services provided by the social workers at READY, the school works closely with many outside service and community agencies in order to provide a holistic education.
By having strong community partnerships and by bringing additional services on-site, we can remove the barriers our families may have to accessing the services outside school.
Similarly, in order to foster strong family relationships, our staff communicates and collaborates with parents and guardians of our students on a daily basis. Family engagement starts with an intake meeting before a student can start at the READY Program. During that meeting, READY staff, a home school representative, and the student meet to determine the academic and behavioral needs of the student. From there, staff works diligently to continue to engage the families and provide support. Examples include:
- Staff communicates with parents and guardians through daily phone calls home about any behavior infractions.
- Parent meetings are scheduled to address behavior or academic issues and to include parents in the community partnerships.
- IEP meetings for students receiving special education services are conducted regularly.
- Academic and IEP progress reports that are sent home quarterly.
- Parent teacher conferences are held both in the fall and spring.
- Transition meetings for each student are held at the end of the school year to discuss progress and placement for the following year.
- Social workers or attendance secretaries call home on each child that is not in attendance, and social workers do home visits.
- Parents are also given access to TeacherEase, our grading system, in which they can check grades, attendance, assignments, and behavior.