Outcomes for Alumni who Self-Directed their Learning

Alison SnieckusUncategorized

A teen who is interested in costume design, is marking out a pattern for a new design.

When Joel Hammon and Paul Scutt first conceived the idea to create Princeton Learning Cooperative, a number of design elements were modeled on a successful self-directed learning program in central Massachusetts, North Star: Self-Directed Learning for Teens–see our guiding principles. North Star is now in its 20th year and its director, Ken Danford, recently collected and published data exploring the paths that North Star alumni have taken when they leave the program. The reports were published by the Alliance for Self-Directed Learning.

Here are a few highlights for the 267 alumni who have moved on to young adult activities (report 1):

  • 58% were classified as doing fine in their school or homeschool situation and joined North Star to have more freedom and support to pursue their interests. The young people and families who choose to attend North Star include all kinds, with a substantial portion being those that do not have significant problems in a traditional school setting.
  • 81% attended at least one of: Community College, Four-Year College, or Certificate-Training Program. Young people who are supported to self-direct their learning during their high school years continue their studies at a rate similar to traditionally-schooled students.*
  • 17% report that they have been self-employed for a time, which compares to about 10% for the US population at large (Pew Research Center, 2015), suggesting that North Star’s program may attract individuals with an entrepreneurial spirit and/or encourage people to “self-direct” their careers.

Ken also reported on the data for young people who arrived at North Star from school and then left North Star to return to traditional school (report 2). For the 85 alumni who have now moved on from secondary school, about half were struggling and half were managing OK in school when they joined North Star, and most stayed at North Star for a year before returning to a traditional school setting. “The data show that these teens eventually moved on to college and work experiences at rates that seem to be close to the general public school outcomes.” Ken’s impression of these young adults is that many value their short time at North Star and the opportunity to have more agency in their lives. And for some, this new perspective was pivotal.

At the Learning Cooperatives we currently rely on individual stories to communicate our impact on young people, and look forward to the day when we have enough alumni to create our first outcomes report.

*Percentage of Massachusetts high school graduates who enrolled in college in 2014-15: 76.2%; Nationally in 2015: 69.2%