I recently wrote about some big changes that are coming for Ohio’s dropout prevention and recovery schools (DPRS), thanks to recent adjustments made by the State Board of Education. This piece examines the potential impacts of those changes.
Identification as a dropout prevention and recovery school
Previously, a DPRS was defined by the Ohio Administrative Code as a school in which a majority of students were enrolled in a dropout prevention and recovery program. Under the new rules, identification will be based on a much higher percentage of students: The minimum percentage will rise to 65 percent for the 2019–20 school year, and then increase again to 75 percent for 2020–21.
Based on the Ohio Department of Education’s dropout recovery enrollment verification data from September 2017, here’s a breakdown of current DPRS and the percentages of their students who are between the ages sixteen to twenty-one and enrolled in a dropout recovery program:
Percentage of students who are enrolled in a dropout recovery program
Number of schools
Although these percentages change from year to year, we can see the potential impact of new identification rules by examining how they would affect the current numbers. For example, all of Ohio’s current DPRSs would be eligible for dropout recovery status for 2018–19 because the minimum threshold will remain at 50 percent. But for 2019–20, eleven schools that are currently labeled as DPRS would not be eligible for dropout recovery status unless they increase the percentage of eligible students they are serving. An additional seven schools would not be eligible for 2020–21.
Losing DPRS identification is a big deal. It means that schools will be subject to the state’s traditional school report card, which assigns an F to schools with a four-year graduation rate of less than 79 percent, instead of the less stringent DPRS report card that awards a “meets standards” designation to schools with a four-year graduation rate of 8 percent or higher. Fifteen of the eighteen schools that would no longer be eligible by the 2020–21 earned a “meets standards” designation on the most recent DPRS report card, but all of them would have earn an F on the traditional report card.
DPRSs are also charter schools, so they’re subject to the state’s automatic closure law. Although there are closure criteria for DPRSs, those losing this status will likely face a stronger threat of being closed once they’re under the criteria for traditional schools. And their academic results are included in the state’s sponsor evaluation system, which has stiff and far-reaching consequences for sponsors that earn poor ratings. Authorizing a DPRS that suddenly isn’t a DPRS could cause some sponsors to consider non-renewing these schools’ sponsorship contracts.
Graduation rate performance levels
The majority of Ohio’s current DPRSs will be unaffected by the change in identification, but they could be impacted by the state board’s second adjustment, which changed graduation rate performance levels. (For those benchmarks, see here.)
Since DPRSs serve students who aren’t on track to graduate, DPRS report cards assign a designation of “exceeds standards,” “meets standards,” or “does not meet standards” for the six-, seven-, and eight-year graduation rates, in addition to the traditional four- and five-year rates. The state board increased the minimum percentage required for each rating category and graduation rate, thereby making DPRS accountable for graduating a higher percentage of students. Here’s a look at the number of schools that fell into each rating under the current rules compared to the number that would fall into each category had the revised rules been in effect for 2016–17:
Does Not Meet
For the four- and five-year rates, twenty and twenty-three schools, respectively, did not meet standards under the current benchmarks, but that number would have doubled had the tougher standards been in effect (forty-nine and fifty-one schools). The difference between current and revised numbers in the remaining cohorts is even larger: The tougher standards almost quadruple the number of schools that won’t meet expectations. In short, a whole lot more DPRSs are likely to receive “does not meet” graduation-rate ratings. Because these ratings account for 30 percent of a school’s overall rating, we should expect to see lower overall ratings as well.
It’s impossible to predict exactly how many schools will be impacted by these new rules, but quite a few of them—and their sponsors—will likely have some big decisions ahead. As school administrators and sponsors consider their next steps, it’s important for them to remember that their decisions will seriously affect thousands of students and their families. Students who aren’t on track to graduate deserve quality instruction, consistent support, and to be held to high standards. The state board has set higher standards for DPRSs. Here’s hoping that the schools can rise to the challenge.
 At least two of the schools included in this dataset were already planning to close prior to the state board changes.