Wednesday, November 14, 2001

Ohio's graduation rate 15th in nation; Kentucky ranks 36th

By Jennifer Mrozowski
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Ohio ranked 15th in the nation for the percentage of high schoolers who received a diploma in 1998, not counting people with GEDs and other alternative graduation certificates, according to a study released Tuesday by a conservative think tank.

        Using that method, 78 percent of Ohio's students received a high school diploma, according to the study by the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research.

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        That graduation rate is 11 percentage points below the results of a number cited in 1998 by the National Education Goals Panel, which uses Census data to report the percentage of 18- to 24-year-olds with a high school credential.

        “If you want to know how public schools are doing, you shouldn't include the results of students who left their systems,” said Jay P. Greene, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. “In too many situations, school officials are not straightforward about these problems.”

        In conducting the analysis, the study compared eighth-grade enrollment in 1993-94 to diplomas handed out in 1997-1998.

        When producing its annual state report cards, the Ohio Department of Education does not include GED holders or people who receive alternative certificates in the statewide graduation rate.

        Kentucky ranked 36th in the nation — with a 71 percent graduation rate — and Indiana ranked 29th — 74 percent — in the percentage of students who graduate.

        Mr. Greene said the study points to a disturbing achievement gap between minority and white students.

        “America is not a land of equal educational opportunity for economically disadvantaged students, and these findings show us the consequences,” said Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, chairman of the House-Senate conference committee working on President Bush's education reform plan.

        “Fundamental changes are needed in our public education system to increase accountability and give new options to parents with children in schools that refuse to change.”

        The study ranked Ohio 33rd of 37 states and Washington, D.C., in the percentage of African-Americans who graduate (49 percent). Fewer than half of Ohio's African-American public high school students graduate, while 82 percent of white students graduate.

        Cleveland City Schools had the worst graduation rate of the nation's 50 largest school districts — with 28 percent graduating — while Columbus ranked 47th with a graduate rate of 45 percent.

        Cincinnati did not qualify for this category.

        Cincinnati is trying to improve its high school graduation rate — calculated by the state to be 51 percent — by redesigning five low-performing neighborhood high schools.

        State Sen. C.J. Prentiss, D-Cleveland, said she has been making noise about that issue since the mid-1980s, when she served on the Ohio State Board of Education.

        She said she is pushing for more training for teachers so they know how to work with minority students in urban districts. She also advocates incentive programs encouraging teachers to stay in urban districts. And she believes smaller classes are a must.

        Cincinnati Public Schools this year will begin measuring how well schools reduce the achievement gap between minority and nonminority students as part of a districtwide plan to rank all schools on performance goals.

       Gannett News Service contributed.



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