Estimates claim up to 30% of high school juniors may not be on track to graduate in 2018 –
By Patricia Beech –
A large percentage of current high school juniors may not be on track to graduate on time. According the Ohio Department of Education, nearly 30 percent of 11th graders in the state have scored poorly on Ohio’s new graduation requirement tests.
In addition to having strong grades and earning the required course credits, students set to graduate in 2018 must also earn points on seven “end-of-course” state exams to be eligible to graduate.
The new tests are more demanding than the old Ohio Graduation Tests (OGT) they replaced.
For each of the seven end-of-course state tests, a student earns one to five graduation points. Students have the potential to earn a total of 35 points, but to meet this graduation option, they must earn a minimum number of 18 points from the seven tests.
Educators across the state have protested against the new requirement’s failure to accurately profile student ability and subject knowledge.
The negative impact of the newly-adopted testing has the State Board of Education considering changes that could ease the crunch on the class of 2018. They are discussing reducing the number of “points” students need to graduate, so that more clear the bar.
As of yet, the Board has not taken steps to change the test, according to Ohio Valley School District Superintendent Richard Seas.
“As it stands right now – they’ve decided nothing, they’ve changed nothing – if they stick to 18 points out of 35, a third of the kids across the state will not get a diploma,” said Seas. “Our district is included in that estimate so we’re anxiously waiting to see what they’re going to do, or what we have to do to intervene with our students so they can get the necessary points on the end-of-course exams.”
The Ohio Department of Education argues that “end-of-course” graduation option gives a student flexibility in accumulating 18 points. For instance, a high score on one test can balance a low score on another test. A student must earn a total of at least four points on English tests, four points on math tests and six points on science and social studies tests.
In addition to the end-of-course tests, students may also choose between three options to earn their diplomas: Complete the required 18 course credits; Receive a composite score of 13 on WorkKeys and an approved industry-recognized credential for vocational students; or earn a remediation-free score on the ACT or SAT.
“A part of me supports these tests because I believe in high standards, that’s why they put this system in play,” said Seas. “You could argue about whether the standards are too high or the target unattainable – I’m torn because I don’t want to see them lower the points, but on the other hand I don’t know how we’re going to get the kids up to 18 points.”
However, former state school board member A.J. Wagner, who has emerged as a strong voice on behalf of high-poverty schools, has warned that graduation rates across Ohio could fall to 60%, creating a dropout/non-graduation epidemic if the test standards aren’t adjusted.
“We are headed for a train wreck,” he posted on Facebook. “These scores and the arbitrary standards being set for rigor put as many as two-thirds of our students in jeopardy for graduation.”
Wagner has called the Ohio’s education system “class warfare”, pointing out that test scores have closely paralleled income levels, with poorer students scoring worse. He said “it would be a miracle” if half of students in poor districts graduate under this system, and argued that not all students need to be college-ready.
“Most of these kids aren’t going to try that hard – they’re going to give up, then you’re left with kids who can’t get jobs or take care of themselves,” he said. “I’m not selling those kids short – I’m facing the practical realities that some kids, because of things beyond their control, can’t compete effectively in the model we’re setting up.”