As the administrator of Towpath Trail High School, in Akron Ohio, Christina Fraser has seen a lot of success. Last year they had their largest graduating group to date and they are a top performing charter school for drop out prevention programs. I interviewed Christina because there is a lot of negative news about charter schools in the media, and it often misses the success stories of how students get a more customized and personal experience in these kinds of schools. DOP stands for Drop Out Prevention – students in these schools have not necessarily dropped out of another school. Instead, they are not happy with traditional schools, and DOP schools customize the experience and learning to help them reach the graduation finish line. I asked Christina about the school for this article and her replies are below.
1. You run a Drop Out Prevention school in Akron – what makes a DOP school different?
A DOP school is different from a traditional school because it allows students more flexibility. Students are able to work at their own pace, in a smaller and quieter environment, while receiving one on one instruction from their teachers when they need it.
2. Towpath HS model includes online and classes. Explain how this works.
Students are assigned to classes through Apex Virtual School based upon what they need to complete for graduation. Each content lab has 20 computers, and students work at their own pace on a variety of assignments including quizzes, essays, labs, and tests. Each lab has a highly qualified teacher and a rotating intervention specialist to assist students with the lessons on an as needed basis.
3. Your students have a variety of reasons to come to Towpath. What are some of the surprising reasons a student chooses your school?
The most surprising reason students come to our school is to avoid bullying. Bullying and fighting has affected some of their lives so profoundly that they are willing to leave behind the traditional school for a smaller, safer high school experience.
4. What kinds of additional services do you try to provide students?
We provide access to a full time social worker who can assist students with a variety of issues, including, but not limited to child care, housing, and benefits. We have a partnership with Minority Behavioral Health Group and Pastoral Counseling Services to provide students with group and individual counseling for mental health issues. We also have a Placement Specialist to assist students with finding a job, applying to college, or entering a trade school.
5. What times of year can people apply to Towpath? What are the limits of eligibility?
Students can apply at any time. The only requirement is that they be between the ages of 16 and 21. Our Enrollment Specialist meets with students and families to assist with the enrollment packet and securing the appropriate documentation to complete the application.
6. What makes the culture of a school like Towpath different from a traditional school?
Because we are so small in comparison to a traditional high school, our culture is much more like a family. Everyone knows each other. The students know every teacher, and the teachers know every student. The students lift one another up and support each other in times of crisis.
7. What kinds of costs do the students have to attend Towpath?
There is no cost to attend Towpath. All field trips, classroom supplies, transportation through Metro, and graduation attire are provided by the school as well.
8. How can someone find out more information or get a tour of the school?
To get more information about the school or schedule a tour, contact Crystal Scott, the Director of Student Admissions at the main campus downtown, at 234-542-0102 ext. 6003 or Heather Strickland, the Enrollment Specialist at the east campus, at 234-200-6682. Information can also be found on our website: www.towpathtrailhigh.org