Ohio’s 14th District Senator Joe Uecker toured the Southern Ohio Academy on Friday, April 28, to learn about the program it offers to help students earn their high school diploma.
Located inside the South Central Ohio Educational Service Center, in New Boston, the Southern Ohio Academy is a blended school, established by local school districts, using a combination of online and in-school classes to allow primarily at-risk students to work at their own pace toward earning a high school diploma. This year the program expects a 90 percent graduation rate, among students who otherwise may not have graduated high school.
Recent changes at the Ohio Department of Education have threatened the future of blended schools such as the SOA, which measures by assignments rather than by hours.
“We wanted to make sure our program is competency-based. We believe that competency-base shows accountability, and we believe the submission of assignments demonstrates accountability because we know that the student did address the assignment in some way,” SOA Superintendent Pat Ciraso said.
The Ohio Department of Education is now requiring hours instead of assignments, and threatens to cut funding to any program that does not fully meet that requirement. If that happens, Ciraso warned, the SOA will be unable to operate.
To demonstrate the success of their program, Senator Uecker was invited to tour the SOA facility and see for himself. After visiting with students in the classroom, Uecker affirmed his support for the program.
“This is just too important of an opportunity for the kids down in southeastern Ohio to pass up. In the state we’re looking for any idea we can to make even one child successful, and here we’ve got a school that is making many do things that they might not otherwise have done to graduate from high school. Our workforce is mandating we do anything we can to make kids successful, and why would we not look at a facility that actually is showing improvement,” Uecker said.
He concluded the meeting by affirming his support for the program.
“I’m going to work very hard on trying to see if we can make this a go,” Uecker said.