Oregon Trail Academy works to improve pathways for success for online students
When the Oregon Trail Academy graduated its first class in 2019, there were but five seniors and all successfully crossed the finish line. In 2020, due to several changes and growing pains, the charter school's graduation rate dropped to 78.26%.
In 2021, that rate dropped again to 56.25%, and a lack of enrollment led the charter school to end its diploma program, at least for now.
In 2020, then-director Tim Norfleet attributed the drop partially to further diversity of the school's offerings and the small graduate cohort size.
That year, with 46 total seniors, any number of non-graduates would've been significant. As it was, 36 of the 46 graduated. All 14 "brick-and-mortar" students graduated.
In 2021, 18 of the 32 students enrolled as seniors graduated. Data about how many were online is not available, though the number of seniors participating in brick-and-mortar instruction was fewer than the previous year.
Though the school lost the diploma program this year, it gained a new director: Rachel Weeks. Weeks said she "came into this year with the desire to help students in that online program."
Currently there are 212 students enrolled in in-person instruction at the Boring campus, one student attending those same classes online and 33 students in the Edgenuity online program. Edgenuity is an online program indirectly run by OTA. OTA instructors advise students, but the curriculum is not decided by the academy.
While OTA itself does not provide a diploma program now, Edgenuity still does, and as of February 2022, there are 16 seniors working toward graduation.
Part of how Weeks hopes to help her online students succeed is by "focusing on bringing that culture of the school" to the online students.
"We're really striving to build a strong school culture," Weeks said. "I think that's had a great impact."
Edgenuity students have access to not only OTA instructors, but counselors who review their transcripts and work to help them succeed. The school also provides alternate paths to earn credit for those in need of them. Staff also have started taking OTA swag to online students to let them know "they belong at OTA" and they are part of the school.
"(We will try) anyway we can to help them succeed," Weeks said.
Enrollment is now open at the academy until March 4. For more information about the school, visit oregontrailacademy.org.
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