Edison joins rural education study

HAMMONDSVILLE–Edison Local School District is among 50 rural schools joining an initiative through Harvard University to take a closer look at chronic absenteeism and college readiness.

The district will be part of the National Center for Rural Education Research Networks (NCRERN), an initiative of the Center for Education Policy Research (CEPR) at Harvard, and will have an opportunity to apply the Proving Ground model of evidence-based improvement to address chronic absenteeism, college readiness and college enrollment. The study is funded by the Institute of Education Sciences at the U.S. Department of Education and is a five-year process.

District Assistant Superintendent Julie Kireta said the study will primarily involve Edison High School and other school districts include sites throughout Ohio and New York.

“The Ohio Department of Education had a call for applicants,” Kireta said. “To be a considered a rural school, you had to be so many miles from the city limits.. We qualified and applied. We linked the application to show how absenteeism plays a role in college and career readiness and employability.”

NCRERN will review the data and root causes of absenteeism and help provide ideas to help boost attendance. Kireta added that school officials also discussed the subject at an Ohio School Boards Association conference, particularly how employers wanted to make sure workers showed up for a job.

“It’s an important part of college and career readiness,” she noted. “Leah Eft, our career pathways specialist, is working to get students ready for life after graduation, whether it is employment, college enrollment or military enlistment.”

Kireta said absenteeism at the high school stood at 16 percent during the 2018-19 school term, which was up from 12 percent the previous year. Illness was one of the reasons for such numbers and the study aims to seek out causes and find resolutions.

“There are regional meetings we will attend to discuss the data and intervention process. With that, we had an opportunity to work with the Cleveland Browns Foundation on their back-to-school campaign, ‘Get to School, Stay in the Game.’ The foundation is providing incentives for students who attend school and some were invited to an Orange and Brown Scrimmage where they met ODE Superintendent of Public Education Paolo DeMaria on Aug. 3.”

She noted that about 11 elementary school students and several staff members attended the event.

According to CEPR officials, NCRERN will produce tools to identify students who are most at risk for absenteeism and being unprepared as well as change management resources to guide rural schools in addressing chronic absenteeism, college readiness and college enrollment. Throughout the process, member districts will collaborate on shared challenges and learn from each other to guide future work on school improvement.

“The network brings together our expertise in strategic management and analytics and our partners’ expertise in supporting rural students,” said Bi Vuong, Proving Ground director and NCRERN interim director. “We are excited to have the opportunity to collaborate with districts committed to learning with us and sharing their expertise with each other.”

“Congratulations to these districts for being selected to take part in this incredible opportunity that aims to support students by reducing absences, increasing college enrollment and ensuring college preparedness,” stated DeMaria. “The Ohio Department of Education’s partnership with Proving Ground underscores our commitment to continuous improvement with a focus on rural areas of the state. I applaud these schools for rising to the challenge of leveraging data and analytics to encourage student achievement, and I look forward to seeing the positive success stories that develop because of this innovative project.”

Applicants were chosen based on alignment between the district’s strategic goals and the work of the Center, capacity to utilize data for decision making, commitment to continuous improvement practices and geographic distribution. In addition to Edison, other Ohio districts involved are Ansonia Local Schools, Bethel-Tate Local Schools, Black River Local Schools, Caldwell Exempted Village Schools, Cardington-Lincoln Local Schools, Clear Fork Valley Local Schools, Clermont Northeastern Schools, Crooksville Exempted Village Schools, East Guernsey Local Schools, Franklin Local Schools, Goshen Local Schools, Licking Heights Local Schools, New London Local Schools, North Union Local Schools, Northwest Local Schools, Ridgewood Local Schools and Scioto Valley Local Schools.

“We took advantage of an opportunity to work with other districts that are similar to us to try to problem solve,” Kireta concluded.