News

The alternative school program getting most at-risk students to graduate

By Scott Ebbrecht
May 12th, 2015

Ohio’s EOS focuses on school skills and moves 60 percent more at-risk students toward graduation

at-risk-studentsA decade ago, approximately 10 percent of high school students at my district—450 kids—did not earn enough credits to advance to the next grade level. Six-hundred were at risk of school failure and/or dropping out. At the time, 70-100 high school students were expelled annually.

Not only was this inhibiting students from succeeding in school, life and future careers, but it was straining teachers within the classroom. According to recent research, the annual cost for a teacher to deal with a disruptive student for one hour each day amounts to more $27,000 per classroom in lost instructional time.

Clearly, something had to change.

The Westerville City School District (WCSD), where I work as director of alternative education and assessment, serves students living within a 52-square-mile area located just northeast of Columbus, Ohio. Its enrollment of approximately 14,800 students makes WCSD the 11th largest school district in the state.

Ten years ago, the general working assumption of district educators was that the problem(s) facing these students can most often be attributed to a poor match between the school and the student. In order to meet the diverse needs of the district’s students and families, especially for those students disenfranchised with the traditional school experience, an innovative option has continue to be refined and enhanced. The WCSD alternative high school program, the Educational Options for Success (EOS), was established with Alternative Challenge Grant money to support innovation within public schools.

The program supports students who have been expelled from school; students who are overage and under-credited and are considering dropping out; students who have dropped out and/or experienced failure in a charter school alternative; and students whose personal schedule and responsibilities will not accommodate a classroom experience during a traditional school day.

Next page: How the highly-structured, supportive system works