By KATHRYNE RUBRIGHT
Findlay Digital Academy is one of just eight dropout recovery schools in Ohio to earn an “exceeds standards” rating on 2016-2017 report cards issued by the state Department of Education.
The academy is an online school focused on dropout prevention and recovery.
Most of the state’s recovery schools, 51 out of 86, met expectations, and 27 did not.
Findlay Digital Academy Superintendent Rosemary Rooker credits the school’s instructional coaches with making the difference.
“The kids have the help that they need. It’s not just, ‘here’s your computer, here’s your curriculum, you know, go,'” Rooker said.
Most of the coaches are retired teachers, available to students throughout the week for one-on-one tutoring in a computer lab setting. How much a student comes to the lab can vary based on how much in-person instruction they need.
To help keep students on track, each coach has a list of 20 to 25 students to check on each week.
“That academic coach makes weekly contact with that student or parent just to say, ‘Hey, I see you’re not doing so well in your math class. Do you need to come into the lab?'” Rooker said.
The school scored much higher than other dropout recovery schools on the graduation rate component: 69.6 percent (“exceeds standards”) for the weighted average of four- through eight-year graduation rates, compared to a statewide average of 29.7 percent (“meets standards”).
“We’re very, very, very proud of this,” Rooker said. “Our kids are graduating. They’re making it through it.”
Students can attend dropout recovery schools through age 21, which is why rates through eight years are available.
Findlay Digital Academy received “exceeds standards” on each of the four- through eight-year rates as well as the weighted average.
The high school test passage rate component measures how many students pass the tests required to graduate from high school — either new end-of-course tests, or Ohio Graduation Tests, depending on when a student started high school.
To score “exceeds standards,” at least 68 percent of students who are seniors or who are within three months of turning 22 must pass their tests, and 78.6 percent of those students at Findlay Digital Academy did so last year.
The statewide average was 57.5 percent, which scores “meets standards.”
Findlay Digital Academy also scored “exceeds standards” in gap closing, a measure of how well schools are doing to close achievement gaps for “vulnerable populations.”
The academy scored 87.3 percent on meeting gap closing objectives in English language arts, math and the graduation rate. A score of 36 percent or higher “exceeds standards.”
In the progress category, which measures growth from past performances, Findlay Digital Academy scored “meets standards.”
Students take a test to measure growth. Scores ranging from minus 2 to 2 meet standards, while scores above or below that range exceed or do not meet standards, respectively.
Findlay Digital Academy students averaged 1.2 in reading and 0.2 in mathematics.
The report card did not provide state averages for gap closing and progress.
On the 2015-2016 report card, Findlay Digital Academy scored “meets standards” overall. It met standards in the test passage rate and exceeded standards for the graduation rate and gap closing, but did not meet standards in progress.
Findlay Digital Academy is an online charter school for grades nine through 12 sponsored by Findlay City Schools.
Many of the students are considered “at-risk.” Others might want to finish their education faster.
If a student finishes the first semester of ninth-grade English in October, for example, they don’t have to wait until January to start the second semester.
Or, students might find the online school more convenient to attend while working or taking care of a baby.
The school was originally only for Findlay students. Now it accepts students from adjacent districts, which include all Hancock County districts except McComb and Cory-Rawson.