Friday, January 18, 2002

Many seniors fall short in tests

Students must pass to graduate

By Jennifer Mrozowski and The Associated Press
The Cincinnati Enquirer and The Associated Press

        COLUMBUS — More than 7,000 seniors at public high schools won't earn their diplomas this year unless they pass all parts of the state's ninth-grade proficiency tests.

        About 10 percent of those students — or 711 seniors — are from the area.

        The Ohio Department of Education on Thursday released the results of the tests taken in October. The department said that of the 7,296 seniors who haven't passed all five parts of the test, 4,683 have only one more part to pass.

        Students have several chances over their four high school years to pass the English, reading, math, science and citizenship tests that are required for graduation. In most cases, students have the most trouble passing the math test.

        In Greater Cincinnati, only St. Bernard-Elmwood Place Schools can boast that every senior in its district has passed all five parts of the test.

        “We have a transient population, so that could change,” cautioned Cindy Leibold, the district's director of curriculum/pupil personnel.

        But for now, she said, she's happy for the class of 55 seniors.

        “The high school faculty and staff worked diligently on proficiency test intervention,” she said. “And the students worked really hard, too.”

        “For a first-year principal, you couldn't ask for a better senior class,” said St. Bernard-Elmwood Place High School Principal Don Hartley, who's been in the district 23 years. “It's a classy class.”

        In Cincinnati Public Schools, Greater Cincinnati's largest school district, 175 12th-graders who took the test in October have one or more tests still to pass. That's around 10 percent of the district's senior class.

        District spokeswoman Jan Leslie said the students will get extra support to help them pass. Seniors can take the tests again in March, May and July, said state department of education spokeswoman Beth Gianforcaro.

        “We are pleased with the progress this group of Ohio seniors has made in the past four years,” said Susan Zelman, state school superintendent.

        Of the seniors enrolled in private schools, 99 percent have passed all parts of the test, the department reported.

        When the class took the tests as ninth-graders, 58 percent had passed all five parts of the test, Ms. Zelman said.

        The state department of education also reported that fewer than half the state's high school freshmen who took the ninth-grade proficiency test in October passed all five of its sections, a significant drop from a year ago.

        The department attributes the drop to a change in Ohio law that revamped the state's testing schedule, putting this year's freshmen at a disadvantage.

        Under a law passed in 1997, this year's freshman class was to take a new graduation test given in the 10th grade instead of the ninth-grade proficiency test.

        But that changed in June when Gov. Bob Taft signed Senate Bill 1, which pushed back the start date of the 10th-grade graduation test to the senior class of 2007 and will phase out the ninth-grade proficiency test over several years.

        Under Senate Bill 1, the class of 2007, or this year's seventh-graders, will be the first class required to pass the new 10th-grade test. Until then, all other classes are required to pass all parts of the ninth-grade proficiency test.


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