These schools break the conventional links between race, poverty, and academic failure. Not only do their students receive an academically rigorous curriculum that prepares them for college and careers, they also experience learning opportunities that are culturally rich, socially and practically relevant, and responsive to their needs and interests.
- Linda Darling-Hammond, Stanford University
Putnam County is a "Rural Area of Critical Economic Concern" with 80% of its residents living in unincorporated rural areas. Putnam is ranked among the ten most economically deprived counties in the state and faces many challenges. Many indicators illustrate extreme poverty in Putnam County.
The district is the poorest in the state, with 77% of all students on Free or Reduced Lunch Plans. Florida unemployment data indicates Putnam County has the 9th highest unemployment at 12.8%, and is considerably higher than the state average of 11%. According to a recent study, 46 % of Putnam's children live in single parent households, 22% of youth suffer from inadequate social support, and residents are subject to a violent crime rate 10 times that of the national average. Understanding the population characteristics is critical in grasping the risk and protective factors facing youth and families thus impacting educational outcomes, aspirations and success.
All schools are Title I Schools, with many students performing below state averages in academic areas; in fact, Putnam schools are among the ten worst performing districts in Florida. Nearly 30% of Putnam County adults over 25 do not have a high school diploma, less than 9% have a college degree, and less than 15% of high school graduates even plan to attend a four-year college or university. There is a compelling need to establish a school model in this area that addresses the particular challenges of high needs, low performing high school students in economically underserved and largely rural communities.
Putnam EDGE High School seeks to break this cycle by concentrating on rigorous coursework and embracing 21st century knowledge and skills.