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Ohio Might Be Heading Toward a High School Graduation Crisis

photo of Statewide School Administrators rally
School administrators are demanding Ohio head off a graduation crisis.

A new report suggests a high-school graduation crisis could be coming in Ohio. More than a third of the state’s high schoolers have not yet scored what they need to in order to get their diplomas. Statehouse correspondent Andy Chow reports education leaders and teachers believe Ohio schools may be heading for a disaster and are begging for help.

“I have a 15-year-old daughter who’s not real good in math," says John Haswell. He's worried about his daughter, who’s a sophomore at Shadyside High School in eastern Ohio. “When I saw her end-of-course exam on geometry, her score of a 1, I knew immediately we were in trouble.”

Haswell’s daughter and every other high schooler in Ohio all have new standards to meet in order to graduate in 2018 and every year after that. Instead of the old standardized test known as the Ohio Graduation Test, students must accumulate a certain score among seven different tests.

Click here for Ohio's graduation requirements

Each test gets a student up to five points. To graduate, students need 18 points, but must also reach a minimum amount of points in each subject.

A shared struggle
Haswell’s not just a father; he’s also the superintendent of Shadyside Local Schools. He says his daughter is not alone.

“I started looking at my kids, our school, I looked at the data from them and about 45 percent of my daughter’s sophomore class at Shadyside is behind at graduation points.”

Haswell and hundreds of other school administrators gathered outside the Statehouse to protest the standards and voice their concern about the potential graduation crisis.

'A problematic policy'
The Ohio Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, joined in on the rally. That group’s vice president, Scott DiMauro, says education leaders need to fix what he calls a problematic policy.

“We’re confronting the reality that we’ve got a whole lot of students through no fault of their own who are at risk of not graduating next year because of a policy decision that wasn’t very well thought through.”

Two blocks from that rally, the Ohio Board of Education was getting a glimpse at how dire the situation might be for Ohio’s high school students.

A report looking at the class of 2018 showed that only 65 percent are on track to meet the standards needed to graduate. That means more than a third of current high school juniors need some type of remediation in order to graduate on time.

DiMauro says that creates a whole other stress on students.

"The other problem that you have is that because these tests are tied to specific courses, you’ve got a whole lot of students who are passing those courses, moving onto other subjects. But then they have to retake tests in classes they’re no longer taking.”

Thoughtful change
Board of Education member Stephanie Dodd says she and her fellow board members understand the urgency of the issue.

“There absolutely are a significant number of students that are not on track to graduate.”

Dodd believes there’s enough support from the board to change the standards and bring that required accumulated score down from 18. But she says it needs to be a thoughtful change.

“If we were to lower those points from 18 to a different number, what would that look like in terms of graduation and how would that impact our districts?”

There are two other paths to graduation aside from these seven tests. One is to earn credits with career-field experience and the other is to score well on either the SAT or ACT test.