FAIRBORN – The Fairborn City Schools District continues to sponsor a first-class high school education to those students who prefer an alternative learning environment and take another path to a high school diploma.
The Fairborn Digital Academy (FDA) is an online high school that allows at-risk students, who have not succeeded in a traditional high school setting, to pursue their educational goals and receive their high school diplomas. Dottie Meade, executive director at FDA, and FDA Principal Erik Tritsch were on hand at the Nov. 2 school board meeting to talk about the programs at FDA and the state report card the online academy recently received. FDA officially opened its doors at 700 Black Lane in Fairborn on Nov. 14, 2002.
“It has been 15 years, and if you look around the State of Ohio, you will not find many conversion schools that have been as successful or graduate as many students as Fairborn Digital Academy has,” Meade said.
Currently, approximately 200 students attend FDA, and about 300 students walked through the doors at the academy last year, according to Meade. An average of 50 students graduates from FDA each year during graduation ceremonies that are held in January and June.
Meade explained that the FDA staff of certified teachers is hired through the Greene County Educational Service Center. FDA is always looking for new curriculum to keep learning rigorous for the students and presently offers four different programs.
“We have been working really hard since 2015 to meet compliance with the Ohio Department of Education,” said Meade. “We actually moved from an ineffective rating during the 2015-2016 school year to an effective rating in the 2016-2017 school year, and our goal is to get an exemplary rating by next year.”
Tritsch explained that the annual report card of a dropout-recovery community school looks quite different than the report card that Fairborn High School receives. FDA is rated in nine categories. The four major components of the state grade card are assessment passage rate, gap closing, progress and graduation.
The academy’s overall rating for the 2016-2017 school year exceeded state standards with 92.9 percent of high school students attending FDA passing all five state tests that are required for graduation.
The gap closing component of the report card shows how well schools are meeting the performance expectations in language arts, math, and graduation. FDA is compared against the collective performance of all students in Ohio to determine if there are gaps in academic achievement between different groups of students. According to Tritsch, FDA met state standards in this category at 33.3 percent.
The students in grades nine through 12 were tested at both the beginning and ending of the 2016-2017 school year to evaluate their progress in reading and mathematics. The scores were then used to measure the academic growth made by the students at FDA who met state standards in this category.
The graduation rate on the state report card represents the percentage of students who are successfully finishing high school and receiving a diploma in four, five, six, seven or eight years. The four-year graduation rate applies to the class of 2016 who graduated within four years of entering the ninth grade for the first time. FDA met state standards in the four-year graduation category at 27.6 percent. This score was also compared to all other dropout recovery schools in Ohio that rated 24.8 percent in this category. Tritsch stated that FDA exceeded state standards for the five, six, seven, eight-year and combined graduation rates. The report card showed that FDA scored a 52.7 percent in the weighted average of all graduation rates.
“We are definitely going to have to pick up our rate in the four-year category and graduate more students than we did last school year,” Tritsch said.
The attendance rate of the 178 students enrolled in the online academy during the 2016-2917 school year was an impressive 99.9 percent. Of the 88 dropout recovery schools that operate in Ohio, only eight schools exceeded state standards in their overall rating for the 2016-2017 school year, including FDA.
“We were again in the top tier of dropout recovery schools in the State of Ohio, and that is the result of being part of the team that works together here at Fairborn City Schools and the Fairborn Digital Academy,” said Tritsch.
Linda Collins is a freelance writer for Greene County News.