By Nicole Hennessy
Gov. John Kasich’s state of the state address last month focused heavily on education: outside-the-box thinking, individual plans to help students at risk of dropping out before graduation and reaching out to the 1 million Ohio adults who did drop out of high school by providing them access to two-year colleges to both obtain their diplomas and job training.
Kasich said about 24,000 high school students drop out every year, but admitted the dropout rate isn’t easy to track.
Echoing this proactive thinking, Olmsted Falls schools Superintendent Jim Lloyd outlined a similar plan to be implemented in the Olmsted Falls school system at a special meeting of the school board on March 31.
With a focus on career preparedness and keeping students in Olmsted Falls for the duration of their education, he said, “There’s a lot of work to do, and it’s hard and difficult, but it’s the right work.”
A draft of the strategic plan, which includes objectives such as increased student success, connection with the community and technology integration, will be presented to the board in late May.
“It’s not about passing achievement tests; you get that stuff along the way,” Lloyd told the board. “What we’re here to do is inspire and empower students so they can go out and change the lives of other people.”
In the proposed model, a student is a whole person, a departure from test-heavy, “No Child Left Behind” policies.
Kasich’s proposed strategy also includes community connections and job preparedness.
An ambitious list of goals during an election year, he outlined some of them: the creation of a mentoring program that utilizes state and casino funds to connect students with local businesses and professionals; an online job resource tool; vocational training for students as young as seventh grade; increased early college enrollment opportunities for high school students; more state funds allocated to early childhood education; and college credit for veterans.
Preparing as many options as possible for parents with challenged students or those leaving Olmsted Falls for private schools, Lloyd’s plan includes a higher-quality online program.
“How do you measure the success of high school?” he asked. “I don’t think it’s high school graduation anymore; not in this school district.”
“In a lot of districts, it might be and it needs to be a focus nationally, because the more kids don’t graduate, the more it costs all of us.”
Reiterating the idea of “pathways” – different pathways for different students –Lloyd explained that he defines a successful education by what jobs students end up with after they graduate from either high school or college.
Of course, compiling this data includes tracking the graduates of the district, which is a long-term process.
Having received a SOAR District Award for Significant Progress in 2012, this proposal will build on that momentum. Long-term goals also include plans for a consortium comprised of surrounding districts designed to enable schools to share resources, such as specialized professionals utilized by multiple districts, professional development resources and collaboration on goals and strategies.
Of the consortium portion of the proposal, Lloyd alluded to the governor’s plan, stating, “People in a particular party are calling for … sharing resources.
“Not paying the same dollar for the same thing,” he explained, is a portion of any proposed initiative that shouldn’t be overlooked.