Nearly 40 percent of Springfield seniors in danger of not graduating

Almost 40 percent of Springfield’s senior class is in danger of not graduating this year if state legislators do not change requirements to get a diploma.

School statistics obtained by the Springfield News-Sun show 135 seniors of 364 are still working to obtain enough points on state tests.

Student’s not getting a diploma is a major economic issue for all of the community, Ohio State Rep. Kyle Koehler, R-Springfield, said.

“There is no bigger factor to whether someone is going to live in poverty than if they get a high school diploma,” Koehler said.

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All Ohio students in the Class of 2019 must pass at least 20-course credits, including four each in English and math. Then they choose one of three test-based graduation pathways, although a small number of special education students are exempt.

The first pathway is earning at least 18 of 35 possible points on the state’s seven end-of-course exams — English 1 and 2, algebra, geometry, biology, American history and American government. Students also need sub-scores of at least four points from the two English tests, four from the two math tests and six from the three science/social studies tests. They can retake the tests multiple times if needed.

The second pathway is earning a remediation-free score on the ACT or SAT (22 points each in English and math). But those scores are actually higher than the state average, so students who achieve them usually passed the state tests already.

The third pathway is earning an industry-recognized job credential from an approved state list, plus passing the WorkKeys workforce-readiness test

Of the 135 students who are still working towards a diploma, 65 have scored at least 14 points, the statistics show. The average point per student is 18.5

Springfield City Schools Superintendent Bob Hill said none of those students have achieved the alternative pathways to graduation.

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“We still hold hope that the legislature will extend the options for next year,” Hill said.

Springfield City Schools

Last year, about 30 percent of Springfield seniors didn’t obtain the 18 points necessary to graduate.

The average in that class was 16 points per student.

However, the state added pathways and allowed the Class of 2018 to graduate without passing tests if they met two standards such as 93 percent attendance, a 2.5 GPA, 120 work/service hours, or a “capstone” project.

About 76 percent of Springfield City students graduated in four years, according to data from the Ohio Department of Education school report card. The state agency gave the district an F for the graduation indicator.

Hill in a letter to the state legislature this month said his district provides a good education.

“I can assure you with 100 percent certainty that our schools are full of students who are learning every day,” Hill wrote in the letter. “I can further assure you that our impoverished and urban population of students faces many demands and unique challenges. Empowering local school boards to act in the best interest of their clientele is the most logical move. People living through and with challenges are the most well armed to tackle them.”

Hill also said in the letter that students in the class of 2019 deserve to graduate.

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“Springfield High School has students who will not graduate this year, who have placed their trust in an educational system that keeps moving the target,” he said. “Students can hit any target that is made clear to them and stands still. Ohio, and the more specifically the City of Springfield do not have a clear target due to continuous legislated change.”

Hill offered a number of alternative requirements that he thinks would be better requirements for graduation including:

  • A passing score on WorkKeys
  • At least 95% attendance in the second semester (all absences, excused and unexcused, counted against the percentage)
  • A minimum 3.0 GPA, unweighted, in the second semester, over a minimum of four courses
  • Completion of a capstone project, using guidelines established by the district and approved by the BOE (guidelines can be based on best practice models to ensure rigor)
  • Completion of two or more recognized workforce readiness credentials in the second semester.

“These suggestions are similar to those that were in place last year, somewhat altered for the condensed timeframe and, perhaps, a bit more rigorous,” Hill said. “Although, rigor continues to lie in the eye of the beholder. Further, I am of the opinion that the aforementioned alternatives may generate little controversy at the state level. If a decision is not made by mid-January, any alternatives adopted after that will be merely to increase the graduation numbers and will undervalue our diploma as compared to those of past graduates.”

Legislative response

Graduation reform is needed in Ohio and it starts with how the state handles tests, Koehler said.

“The biggest problem we need to fix is the testing and students not being able to pass the state tests,” Koehler said. “Good students who can’t pass a state test are not going to graduate. We should fix the real problem, the state testing.”

Students not graduating has large ramifications on a community, Koehler said. Not getting a good high school education and finishing with a diploma leads to poverty, he said.

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Koehler said he’s talked to numerous superintendents, counselors, teachers and parents throughout Clark County and they all say change is needed.

“I was just on the phone with a parent and had this same discussion,” he said. “Her daughter just can’t pass those state tests.”

Koehler said he does believe the state legislature will make changes for the class of 2019. It is still unclear when the additional pathways will be approved, he said, but a bill he introduced might become the vehicle to the changes.

Senator Peggy Lehner, a Republican from Kettering, is the chairwoman of the Senate education committee, said the Senate may make changes for the next three years.

“We’ll probably be adding it onto a House bill that’s already passed,” she said, referencing the bill introduced by Koehler that seeks some education reform but not directly about graduation requirements.

The local state rep said he supports adding pathways to make it easier for this year’s seniors to graduate. However, he is concerned about a couple of options that were added for last year’s seniors.

“I have a real issue with attendance,” he said. “One of the alternative pathways is 93 percent attendance in your senior year. The others were things like doing a capstone project or work requirements. I call the attendance pathway a participation trophy. All you have to do is sit at a desk and just show up. That is a participation trophy. We shouldn’t’ be giving a diploma to somebody who doesn’t do the work.”

A more permanent solution is needed, Koehler said.

“We just keep pushing off the issue, we need to do something,” he said.

Clark County schools

Clark County school leaders also said they are concerned about the new graduation requirements.

Paula Crew, the superintendent at Tecumseh Local Schools, said her district will be greatly affected if changes are not made.

“For many students, their skills lie in areas not covered by the state tests and instead may have a talent in the arts, mechanical understanding, or interpersonal skills,” Crew said. “These students would rather pursue rewarding careers that do not require college degrees but offer comparable wages and personal satisfaction. Many career fields and companies offer apprenticeship training to applicants with employability skills such as: great attendance, ability to work with others, and a desire to work and learn.”

“We are hoping our Ohio legislatures take our collective voice on the pathways to graduation seriously, and modify those changes yet this school year,” she said.

John Kronour, Superintendent at Northeastern Local Schools, also said his district is concerned.

“We have concerns that some of our students may be affected by the graduation requirements and we have added intervention initiatives to help support those students as they work toward graduation.” he said “We’re hopeful that the legislature will recognize that there are a variety of ways that students can be successful, both before and after graduation, and that creating alternative pathways will help more students earn the diploma that is the first step to success in career, college, technical training, military service, and more.”

Staff writer Jeremy Kelley contributed to this article.

Facts and figures

135: Springfield seniors who haven’t obtained 18 points on state tests in 2018

65: Springfield seniors who have scored between 14 and 17 points on state tests in 2018

122: Springfield seniors who didn’t obtain 18 points on state tests last year.

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