Eye on Education

How Ohio’s Big Urban Districts Intervene To Prevent Dropouts



For decades, districts have struggled to address the needs of the students considered most at risk of never graduating.

In 1963, the Ohio Department of Education developed two programs to give those students work experience since they were likely leaving school to get a low-skilled job anyway.

Over the years, those programs morphed into what’s now called Career Based Intervention.  Eric Landversicht, a state level administrator of CBI, says the program still arms students with employment skills and exposure to career opportunities, but it now also includes targeted academic tutoring.

Landversicht says today, some 20,000 students are enrolled in more than 250 districts, and the program looks very different across the state.  Some are held during the school day, others after hours.  All have their own criteria for flagging students to participate, and all are aimed at keeping students from dropping out.

Today, Career Based Intervention is just one of the programs districts across the state use to prevent students from dropping out.

Here’s a snapshot of the dropout problem in Ohio’s big eight urban districts, and the efforts they use to identify and support their most at risk students.

Akron Public Schools

Dropout rate: 6.2 %*

Program used: Career Based Intervention used in seven high schools; approximately 240 students enrolled.  Students get targeted academic help and training in basic work skills

How students are identified: Howard Lawson, the APS director of career technical education, says the program targets ninth graders who performed poorly on the eighth grade state tests, have been suspended multiple times, are chronically absent, or failing two or more core subjects

How they measure success: “For these students, their sense of the future is tonight’s dinner,” Lawson says.  The program’s primary goal is to help students perform well enough to move on to the next grade level.

Canton City Schools

Dropout rate: 5.4%

Program used: Canton still uses career-based intervention curriculum, says district communication officer Lisa Reicosky, but now it’s mainly evolved as a credit-recovery program for students.

How students are identified: Superintendent Adrian Allison says the district views their dropout prevention strategy as being two-tiered: prevention and intervention. Their Early Childhood Task Force works with local childhood providers to ensure kindergarten readiness for all students. Allison adds that there’s also more than five schools, including junior high and high schools, that offer specialized programs for students who are in danger of dropping out.

How they measure success: The ultimate end goal, Allison says, is to make sure students are college and career ready.

Cincinnati Public Schools

Dropout rate: 9.6%

Program used: Cincinnati doesn’t have one specific program aimed at dropout prevention, says Kelly Broscheid who oversees the district’s career tech program.  Instead, Broscheid says CPS has taken a holistic approach to preventing drop outs and converted its high schools to serve seventh through twelfth graders to help students get acclimated to high school at an earlier age.

How they identify students at risk: Broscheid says the district also routinely looks at student attendance and performance data, flags those who are chronically absent, failing, or behind, and then sets them up with additional tutoring during the school day.

Future plans: Cincinnati is developing a new program called My Tomorrow that would group students together for targeted guidance counseling to prevent them from falling behind academically.

Cleveland Metropolitan Schools

Dropout rate: 16.5%

Programs used:  CMSD has a handful of programs largely targeted to male students at risk of dropping out.

One of the biggest is called Closing the Achievement Gap.  Director George Golden says the program targets ninth grade black and Hispanic males and pairs them up with mentors at their high school.  Golden says the district also offers the School of One program  within a few high schools that lets struggling students work on a computer curriculum at their own pace to make up classes. CMSD also has a few specialty schools, like Ginn Academy that caters to at risk males, and Promise Academy, a charter school for students ages 16-21 that allows them to complete all of their classes and assignments online at their own pace.

How students are flagged: Golden says minority males who failed two or more core classes in eighth grade, were absent more than 20 times, suspended five days or more, or are older than their grade level are flagged for CTAG.

How they measure success: .CTAG is required to measure retention rates for males from ninth to tenth grade, which Golden says on average hover between 70 and 80 percent.

Columbus City Schools

Dropout rate: 2.2%

Program used: In the past, says Communications Director Jeff Warner, the approach was to allow each school to have their unique dropout prevention efforts instead of having a program in place for the district as a whole, which resulted in a bit of a hit-or-miss approach.

“Everyone was trying to address it in their own way,” Warner explained. “And what we learned is it needs to be a more sophisticated and inclusive approach to solve this issue.”

Within the next year, Warner says CCS plans to fully roll out a dropout prevention plan for the entire district, relying heavily on increased involvement and input from more than 50 community organizations.

How students are identified: Warner says Columbus’ staff will work to target a group of eighth graders who they’ve identified as the most at-risk of dropping out. The district will implement an early-warning system, and social workers within the district will keep tabs on students by using different outreach methods. Warner also says the district plans to use community groups to connect with dropouts who fall into four different labels CCS has created:

  • Fallouts: students who leave due to life events outside of the classroom
  • Fadeouts: students who become disconnected from school and “fall off the radar”
  • Pushouts: students who are dissatisfied with the school system, and then leave
  • Failouts: students who aren’t performing well academically, and then drop out

How they measure success: Warner stresses this new plan isn’t fully developed, but in the future, the district will measure their success by hopefully seeing a decrease in the school’s dropout rate.

Dayton Public Schools

Dropout rate: 7.8%

Program used: DPS’ Chief Officer of Innovation David Lawrence says the district doesn’t use a specific career based intervention curriculum. But they do have a career tech school where students can learn specific trades, along with a blended learning academy combining different teaching students for students.

How students are identified: Lawrence says most of the district’s dropouts leave around ninth grade, so they work to target at-risk students in that age group with outreach programs to keep them engaged in school.

How they measure success: One way is by graduation rates, which Lawrence says are higher at the district’s career tech school.  During the 2011-12 school year, the Ponitz Career Technology Center had a 86.7 percent graduation rate, compared to the district’s overall rate of 69.9 percent.

Toledo Public Schools

Dropout rate: 7.8%

Program used: Brian Murphy, TPS chief of staff, says the district routinely assigns mentors to students at risk of dropping out the summer before ninth grade.  A few of the high schools also connect students with mentors called graduation coaches that work with students during the school day.  Through the district’s partnership with the United Way, Murphy says TPS brings mental health professionals into the schools to work with students who need social or emotional counseling.  The district also has an online credit recovery program and summer school for those who are behind academically.

How students are identified: TPS has a so-called early warning system—the district uses student attendance, discipline, and academic data to flag potentially at risk students.

How they measure success:  Murphy says many of these initiatives are still new, so longitudinal data aren’t available yet.  But he says one of the high schools using the mentoring program has seen attendance improve and fewer discipline problems.

Youngstown City Schools

Dropout rate: 0.4%

Program used: Career Based Intervention that largely focuses on academic credit recovery during the school day

How students are identified: Deputy Superintendent Douglas Hiscox says students who have been held back, are behind in credits for their grade level, have been chronically absent, or suspended multiple times are flagged to participate.

How they measure success: Hiscox says success is defined as getting the kids to graduate.

*Dropout rates are from 2010, the most recent year for which data are available.  The figures come from the Ohio Education Research Center’s Dropout Tracking Report.


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