The Edison Local School District is continuing its partnership with Harvard University and student success by placing emphasis on the freshman class.
The district is currently in its fourth year of collaboration with the National Center for Rural Education Research Networks (NCERN), an initiative of the Center for Education Policy Research (CEPR) at Harvard, with a study funded by the Institute of Education Sciences at the U.S. Department of Education. Edison was recently mentioned in a “District Spotlight” segment of the NCERN newsletter and touted for efforts to improve education.
“Edison Local School District has made their focus on postsecondary readiness a collaborative effort by including their ninth-grade teachers. By using homeroom as a strategic time for their counselors to have their ninth-graders explore various career pathways, they’ve also been able to seamlessly include ninth-grade teachers to help promote discussions with students and create an easy way to follow up with students,” it stated.
The initiative has focused on such areas as building school attendance and college and career readiness, and now officials are setting their sights on helping Edison High School’s estimated 140 ninth-graders achieve their goals, particularly with the district’s vision of the “Three E’s”—enroll, enlist and employ. Career Pathways Specialist Leah Eft and guidance counselor Chandler Hoppel meet with freshmen to view videos and discuss lessons and then provide the data to NCERN.
“Harvard found that the freshman year was the most pivotal year in high school as it relates to academia,” Eft said. “The goal was to work with us in readying the freshmen and talking about the importance of schooling and coursework and connecting it to pathways. We do weekly lessons in homeroom and are now halfway through them.”
The lessons, which are provided through NCERN, pertain to “Sense of Purpose,” “Setting Your Goals,” Enroll, Enlist and Employ” and “Paying for College,” among others, and during the class sessions Eft and Roush show videos and discuss topics related to them, and then the freshmen complete activities and reflective assignments.
“We give the data we receive to Harvard, then we talk with them about our discussions and specific questions we are getting. Harvard provides us with feedback on what’s working or not working and has monthly reviews to get specific information.”
For her part, Hoppel said one of her favorite lessons was when students were quizzed based on their personality, and those responses resulted in suggested career paths.
“It brought up a list of careers, the timeframe it takes [to attain that career] and the pay. The students enjoyed being able to see that and it helps us prepare for our three goals of employed, enlisted and enrolled,” she added. “It helps, especially with freshmen. They have to make decisions on whether to go to the Jefferson County Joint Vocational School next year and get interested in fields. This gives them some perspective that there are more opportunities than college and other careers than what’s in this area.”
Eft noted that she’s seen some positives with the initiative and the partnership with Harvard and NCERN has been beneficial.
“I’m noticing a lot of engagement [among the students]. It means they are involved in what’s going on,” she added. “We talk a lot about them not choosing a career but choosing a cluster. It’s not specific, just more generalized choices,” she said. “The biggest benefit is giving us the data to see what works. It is a pivotal year and the students will decide
as sophomores if they want to stay at the high school or go to [the JVS] and later if they will go to work, college or a military pathway. I think this is important in making sure they make decisions earlier.”
Edison officials also take part in NCERN events in Athens to get the latest information and better serve the students.
The district is currently in its fourth year of a five-year process and Harvard utilizes the Proving Ground model of evidence-based improvement to address chronic absenteeism, career readiness and college enrollment. Eft has also worked closely with EHS, John Gregg Elementary and Stanton Elementary to coordinate activities and get students in grades 5-12 interested their future paths. She also implements professional skills from work ethic to punctuality to give kids a purpose in career planning and to be prepared with college and career readiness. Edison is among 50 rural schools in Ohio and New York that are part of NCERN and the latest effort will carry the district through the 2023-24 school term.