The Speaker’s Task Force on Education and Poverty (STFEP) met on October 12 to discuss the impact dropout recovery schools have on students in poverty. In addition to the testimony from dropout recovery schools, the committee heard testimony from former State Representative Jim Buchy, who presented on the benefits of agricultural education.
By incorporating agri-science and programming, the George Washington Carver STEM School in Cleveland has seen significant achievements made in academic performance. In the last graduating class, for example, the top six graduates were Future Farmers of America (FFA) members. Other anecdotal successes noted in Representative Buchy’s testimony include an increased eagerness to learn, more involvement by students in after-school activities such as 4-H, exposing children in “food deserts” to new healthy options, and a greater interest by students considering careers in agri-science (Ohio’s number one industry).
Following Representative Buchy, the committee heard testimony from Foxfire in Zanesville, a dropout recovery and prevention K-12 school. The school was labeled “The Model Alternative School” by the U.S. Department of Education for their unique approach to instruction designed for all students’ success. The community school serves at-risk Appalachian and urban children in seven counties and thirteen different districts in the area. Of the children served, 82 percent of graduates are on probation, 84 percent come from homes with divorced parents, 100 percent of the students served by the school qualify for free and reduced lunch, and 67 percent of the students have an Individual Education Program (IEP). Although the children who attend face many barriers, the school has focused its attention on providing trauma-based respite care for their students. Much of that care is focused on providing wrap-around services that address the barriers these children face by utilizing school social workers and mental health specialists.
FLEX High School Columbus, like Foxfire, is a community school that is concentrated on dropout recovery and prevention. 100 percent of the FLEX High School students are economically disadvantaged and come to the school with, on average, a third grade reading level and a fourth grade math level. The testimony from FLEX High School centered on data tied to students who are re-engaged after dropping out. Students who are re-engaged are six times more likely to vote, 26 percent more likely to be employed, and six times less likely to be incarcerated. Tying the data and the school’s progress together, the testimony concluded with the success stories of former students who are enrolled in college, employed in successful careers and getting married.
The committee will continue its work at a meeting at the end of the month.