In March of this year State of Ohio Superintendent of Public Education Dr. Richard Ross stated that “One million Ohioans have never graduated from high school, and we are adding roughly 24,000 youngsters to their rank each year.” In an effort to decrease this number and to better meet the needs of all Worthington students Monday evening (3.24.2014) at the Worthington Board of Education meeting I (along with many others) will share with the BOE a new concept for Worthington Schools that we are calling the Worthington Academy.
As planned the Worthington Academy would provide personalized, evidence-based educational programming for Worthington City Schools students at risk of dropping out. This programming will directly affect our ability to (1) improve educational outcomes for at-risk students, including high school graduation and college and career readiness, (2) meet or exceed our district-wide goals for graduation rates and measures of student academic growth, and (3) connect at-risk students to our community’s robust network of businesses and civic leaders for enrichment and support.
Worthington City Schools operates two large high schools that currently serve a tier of students who are not succeeding in our traditional programs and, consequently, are at risk for underperformance or dropping out. An analysis of our district’s student performance and outcomes data highlighted a significant barrier to student success: a substantial number of our at-risk students have either dropped out of school entirely or withdrawn to attend a 100% online charter program.
During the first semester of the 2013-2014 school year, Worthington High Schools lost 38 students to alternative school choices. Over the past four years, Worthington has lost 211 high school students to alternative schools. With Worthington Academy in place, our district would be able to provide choice to these students. Three comparable districts, Hilliard, Olentangy, and Westerville, serve their students in their own programs. Hilliard City Schools currently serves 71 full-time students and numerous flexible on-line options. Olentangy Local Schools OASIS program currently serves 125 students. Westerville City Schools serves 158 credit deficient or high risk dropout students at their Education Opportunities for Success (EOS). Looking at our first semester withdrawal numbers, four year trend data, and comparable school districts there is a growing need in our district to provide a viable choice to the Worthington school community.
The barriers to success that result in these outcomes vary: some students simply feel disconnected from a learning system they see as impersonal and inflexible; some fall behind on earning credits toward graduation due to gaps in academic knowledge; others struggle to balance home and job obligations with a traditional school schedule; and still others are part of an increasing trend of our students whose school anxiety leads to problems with attendance, work completion, and socialization. We custom-designed our program to address these local barriers to success while simultaneously leveraging evidence-based programming aligned with the six recommendations outlined in Dropout Prevention: A Practice Guide (Dynarski et al., 2008).
The Worthington Academy is designed to dovetail with our district’s other specialized programs. Already, Worthington City Schools offers non-traditional educational options through our Linworth High School and Phoenix Middle School programs. But neither of these programs, unlike the Academy, is designed to target the specialized needs of our students who are credit deficient and are at risk of dropping out. Still, the Academy’s design preserves for at-risk students the option to participate in learning pathways, including the Project Lead the Way/STEM program, which are offered at our traditional high schools. Ultimately, the Worthington Academy will provide the targeted interventions necessary to make an impact with students at risk of dropping out while simultaneously better supporting their continued opportunities for participation in the rich array of academic and co-curricular offerings at our traditional high schools.
Our hope is to have the Worthington Academy operational for students as soon as possible. Monday’s presentation will continue the discussion and will help us to refine our ideas to determine our course of action. Please consider joining us and providing input at the Worthington Education Center, 200 E. Wilson Bridge Road, 7:30 P.M.
-Mr. Jeff Maddox, Director of Innovation and School Support