Competitors and critics of EPIC Charter Schools often hit its graduation rate and marginalize the school’s efforts to ensure students are college- and career-ready upon graduation. This is the TRUTH about EPIC’s efforts for its high school students:
In 2018-2019, 35 percent of all incoming high school students came to EPIC credit deficient. This means it was likely they were going to count against our school’s graduation rate the day we begin serving them. We don’t lament that. Rather, we devise a plan of learning for such students to help them reach the finish line. In fact, EPIC awarded more than 2,500 diplomas in 2019 (many of whom took longer than four years in high school because of their prior learning challenges and thus counted against EPIC’s graduation rate) and significantly improved its graduation rates in both of its two charters.
About 70 percent of all students who enroll in EPIC come to EPIC below grade level. Their performance on state exams also reveals much about their previous schools. However, through our EPIC Essentials program, and other personalized learning tools, we are requiring use of learning and remediation tools to help students catch up.
Of the 1414 students in EPIC’s 2019 ACT report, only 152 had been with us for three or more years. The ACT is a cumulative knowledge exam and, thus, ACT scores of transfer students are also a reflection of their previous schools. However, EPIC has made significant investments to help our students do better on the exam, including lowering teacher-student ratios, hiring an ACT consultant for faculty professional development, providing the opportunity for every high school student to have and use an ACT calculator throughout the school year, and several other programs.
Because we serve students in all 77 counties, we must be innovative in our learning and student support models. In a traditional high school, teachers can carry rosters of five to six periods of 30 or more students and the guidance counselor is responsible for course scheduling. At EPIC, a Graduation Support Management department of 22 individuals oversees course schedules for our high school students and our teachers, with rosters averaging just 29 total students, are the first line of defense in ensuring students are pacing through the classes they need to graduate. A separate College and Career Readiness department works with students in the areas of concurrent enrollment, Career Tech, internships and work study. And we contract with a third party to serve students statewide who need behavioral health services.
Bottom line: We are a nontraditional school, and we're constantly adapting to serve our diverse student population who reside and learn across all 77 counties - all of whom came to us because they weren’t satisfied in their previous schools and needed school to be different.