The AJC has an interesting story about a Cobb alternative school managed by a private company, Ombudsman Educational Services.
Oakwood Digital Academy provides a second chance at a diploma to high school students who are off track. The school provides flexibility because it offers self-directed online courses. The students must attend school each day for three hours, but they have three blocks of time from which to choose, allowing them to juggle work and classes.
It appears the self-directed study and flexible scheduling are an appealing combo. The school has 150 kids on its waiting list. But Oakwood also has a grad rate of 40 percent, which it blames on the fact that its students arrive far behind and have to play catch-up.
Superintendent Michael Hinojosa understands the argument. Transferring students do “partially” affect the school’s numbers, he said. “But that’s still no excuse.” He said he’ll be watching for improvement. The multi-year contract with Ombudsman can be canceled each spring.
Cobb hired the company because of one significant number: $5,000. That’s roughly the amount Ombudsman is charging to educate each student, far less than the $18,000 or so that Cobb spent per student when it did the job itself.
Ombudsman is known around the country for managing alternative schools that are a destination for misbehaving students. The company runs more than 40 schools in Georgia, most of them disciplinary centers, including several in Cobb.
Oakwood is different, though. The students there chose the school. The first “choice” digital school managed by Ombudsman has been operating in Douglas County for three years. The newest school opened in Greene County this year.
When students are stumped, they get the undivided attention of four teachers who are certified in the core subject areas. The students must attend daily but only for three hours. And there are three blocks of time to choose from. The school is geared toward working students who need the flexibility.
John Wacha, a regional executive with Ombudsman, said there are several indicators of improved performance. The grade point average rose to 2.61 last year from 1.64 the previous year. Scores also improved on English and science tests, though they dropped slightly in math and more in social studies.
“We made some improvements,” he said. “We know we have some things to improve upon.”
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog