Brace for a drop in graduation rates
Members of the Kings Local School district recently received an email from Superintendent Tim Ackermann, a call to action to gain local control of high school graduation requirements.
In the message, Ackermann warned residents that nearly 20% of current Kings High School juniors will not meet Ohio’s newly-set requirements to receive a diploma. In other words, 20% of the Kings class of 2018 may not graduate.
A recent article in the Cincinnati Enquirer predicted that Kings High School’s graduation rate would drop from 94.9% in 2015 to 80.4% in 2018, due to the new state standards.
Other local schools are predicted to have a sharper drop. Mount Healthy and Lockland City Schools are expected to drop their graduation rates by nearly 40%, meaning over half their students face not making it out the door and onto campus.
So why is it getting harder and harder for students to achieve their high school graduation requirements?
In early 2014, the State of Ohio passed legislation that changed the graduation requirements for the state without much local input. Instead of one standardized test needed to predict college readiness, the standards changed to seven end-of-course exams and a total of eighteen accumulated points needed.
Ackermann criticized the new “points system.”
“My outlook can’t be positive, not when the state of Ohio wants to base who graduates or not on the current system in place,” he said.
Ackermann said the high school is already addressing this issue by working with the parents of students who seem less likely to meet a passing score.
“We just want to make sure these kids have what they need to graduate with, not what it looks like on our school or district report card.”
Ackermann said the point system should have been phased in from the start. Each graduating class would have the bar set a little higher as the curriculum improved to match what the State of Ohio sees as best fit. However, the State of Ohio School Board won’t give their recommendation on this approach to the Ohio Department of Education until April 2017.
But there are some mentioned alternatives in the meantime. Matt Freeman, the district’s secondary education curriculum specialist described possible ways students can get around taking so many standardized tests and still meet their graduation requirements.
“Remediation free scoring,” Freeman explained, “would require a student to use their ACT or SAT scores to fill the points requirement. For instance, if a student scored a subscore of 18 or higher on the English portion of the ACT, or the equivalent of a 450 on the SAT, then they would meet the standards for that subject needed to graduate.”
Another way, Freeman explained, is fit for students who attend the Warren County Career Center and are studying a trade instead of the traditional high school route.
“If a student is in a welding program for example, that trade has a series of tests and that student would have to get a certain score on each of those to meet the new state requirements,” he said.
Altogether, the district is starting to devise new ways of teaching so that the skills tested on these standardized assessments get through to the students. The new curriculum is forcing teachers to instruct class in a different way, one that embraces struggle and perseverance instead of the traditional take in and spit back out method.
Before Friday, many Kings parents and students seemed unaware of the new standards the State of Ohio was holding them to.
Ackermann urged parents to write to their local and state legislators and ask them to consider the handling of curriculum going to local government and school boards.
By Madison Lunsford