Collaborating to Better Serve Disengaged Students in Ohio

Topics: Overcoming Challenges

Alternative Pathways to Success (APS), a KnowledgeWorks grant-funded initiative to engage disconnected youth and help better prepare them for college, career and life through a more personalized, student-centered approach, is wrapping up its second year – and a new partnership with the Ohio Department of Education hopes to make the benefits of the program available to even more students and schools.

Buddy Harris, director of the Office of Innovation at the Ohio Department of Education, wanted to provide an opportunity for the schools had participated in APS to share their best practices and approaches to better help at-risk students across the state.

“This is a singular moment in time when we can build some collaboration between districts, community schools, alternative schools and the department,” Harris explained.

Harris and his team are organizing a series of convenings over the course of the year which will provide time for district leaders and educators to network and share ideas. Each convening will feature a presentation by a school who has participated in APS and seen the impact that taking a more personalized approach to learning can have for at-risk and disengaged learners.

“We really need to have a better sense of what success is and how we can encourage students to work toward that success,” Harris said. “The best of these programs are really dealing with the whole child: their social-emotional needs as well as their academic needs. We have to really embrace the whole student and understand that there are a number of pathways for success for them that we can encourage.”

Through his work with the superintendents’ work group on drop-out prevention and recovery, Harris knows that what many leaders and educators want most is the opportunity for true knowledge-sharing and networking – many teachers and leaders do not get many, if any, opportunities to leave their school buildings, and the chance to share something that works as widely as possible is one that Harris can’t pass up.

“Schools face many of the same issues, the same risk factors, whether students are being served in a community school or a traditional school or an alternative setting,” said Harris. “We want to create an opportunity for peer-to-peer networking that extends far beyond these convenings. There’s a real energy around the relationships that are built when educators get together – we want that to take root.”