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Cleaning up Ohio ‘dropout factories’

March 28, 2012
Salem News

In 2002, 75 high schools throughout Ohio were classified as "dropout factories." That is, they failed to graduate more than 60 percent of their students on time, according to America's Promise Alliance, a think tank that encourages school reform.

By 2010 the number of dropout factories in the Buckeye State had increased to 135, according to a report sponsored by the APA.

During the same period the number of dropout factories throughout the United States went down to 1,550, from 2,005 eight years previously.

In some ways, public education in Ohio is improving - though at a slower pace than in the nation as a whole. For example, the state managed an average graduation rate of 79.6 percent in 2009, up 2.1 points from 2002. Meanwhile, the U.S. rate had gone from 72.6 percent to 75.5 percent, up 2.9 points.

One virtually inescapable conclusion is that while many Ohio public schools are getting better, the ranks of the worst are growing. Far from improving, some school districts are leaving more children behind.

Youngstown's municipal school district is an example. The city's three public high schools have graduation rates of 73.5 percent, 62 percent - and a shocking 43.5 percent. In that school, students are less likely to graduate than to drop out.

Residents in areas such as ours, with comparatively good public schools, may not view that as a problem. Why worry, if our children are benefiting from quality educations?

Unfortunately, the tens of thousands of young Ohioans who drop out of school before graduating often go on to become burdens to society - and that means each and every taxpayer in the state. Deplorable schools and districts cost us all money.

Ohio has mechanisms to deal with low-performing school districts, but the most powerful of them are used rarely. For example, the state is empowered to govern a district through an "academic distress commission." Only one of them is in use, in Youngstown.

Clearly, state officials need to act more forcefully to improve schools that are failing students, parents and taxpayers in general. Gov. John Kasich has recommended steps the General Assembly can take to that end. Lawmakers should be adopting at least some of them.



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