Ohio dropout rates
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Byron McCauley, 513-929-1310 or McCauleyB@kwfdn.org
New report: Little progress in turning around Ohio high schools with worst dropout rates
Core of urban schools still struggling five years after state task force recommendations
CINCINNATI (Aug. 31, 2009) – Ohio has made scant progress in lowering the high school dropout rate since a state task force declared five years ago that the dropout problem was both a moral and economic imperative for the state, according to a study released today by Ohio Education Matters, a new education policy research organization.
The study showed that the dropout rate statewide increased from 13.8 percent in 2004-05 to 15.2 percent in 2007-08, the latest year for which data was available. And while some of the most troubled public high schools have shown slight progress in reducing dropout rates over the four years, the 5 percent of traditional schools with the most serious dropout problem have rates more than four times the average.
“These results raise the sense of urgency for the state to develop a comprehensive strategy to address high school issues,” said Andrew Benson, executive director of Ohio Education Matters, which was launched today by KnowledgeWorks Foundation, the Cincinnati-based organization that develops and implements innovative and effective approaches to high school education in Ohio and around the United States. “With leaders across the country coming to recognize the link between high school graduation and economic stability, we have a unique opportunity to put in place a coordinated and targeted strategy for turning around the state’s dropout problem. We can’t afford not to act.”
OEM will provide guidance and leadership on high schools, school funding, workforce development, community engagement and other education issues across the state, said Chad P. Wick, president and CEO of KnowledgeWorks.
“Ohio Education Matters will intensify our focus on Ohio so that we can help keep education issues moving forward to benefit all learners in the state,” Wick said.
The findings come a week after the state released report cards that showed a 2 percent dip in Ohio’s graduation rate from a year before, to 84.6 percent in 2007-08. Four years earlier, the graduation rate was 86.2 percent
The analysis, The Pursuit of High-Quality High Schools: A progress report on Ohio’s quest to graduate more students ready for college and career, studied four-year trends for the 5 percent of traditional high schools with the highest dropout rates – the schools most likely to be tagged as “dropout factories.” While it identified an overall improvement of more than 5 percent in the dropout rate for these schools, the report said:
- The 30 worst schools for dropouts had an average dropout rate of 33.6 percent in 2007-08, meaning one in three students left high school without a diploma.
- More than a third of the worst schools saw already steep dropout rates climb even higher over the four years studied, with some schools graduating fewer than four in 10 students.
The problems with Ohio’s dropout rates continue in both the worst schools and across the state despite recommendations from a state task force aimed at improving high schools five years ago. The State Board of Education’s Task Force on Quality High Schools for a Lifetime of Opportunities called for measures to improve high school learning conditions and to prevent students from dropping out. In 2004-05, 18,702 students were reported as dropouts. By 2007-08, 21,664 were high school dropouts.
“In the task force’s view, making sure students get a diploma should be as much about equity and morality as it is about economics – students who drop out of high school will simply have fewer good choices in their lives.” the 2004 task force report stated.
The report from Ohio Education Matters, a new subsidiary of KnowledgeWorks, concluded “Ohio’s dropout rate remains unacceptably high, with more than 15 percent of students failing to graduate in 2007-08. And certainly, the increase in the dropout rate four years after the state accepted the challenge to improve high schools is a missed opportunity for the state and for the more than 75,000 students who may have left their chance for future success at the high school door.”
The analysis is designed to help state leaders and education stakeholders better understand problems in public high schools so that solutions can be crafted and implemented. Among the report’s other findings were:
The heart of Ohio’s dropout problem continues to be the urban core. In both 2004-05 and 2007-08, all of the 30 worst high schools for dropouts were in urban areas. Two big-city districts – Cleveland Metropolitan and Columbus City – together accounted for more than half the 30 worst schools in both years.
The disparity between Ohio’s best and worst dropout schools is vast. The average dropout rate in the 30 worst schools was more than four times the average for the group of traditional schools studied and that gap grew slightly. At the bottom of this group, the difference loomed even larger – with the worst dropout rate reaching seven times the average in 2004-05 and eight times the average in 2007-08.
Ohio schools with the highest dropout rates made above-average progress in graduating students. Among the 30 schools with the biggest dropout problem in 2004-05, the dropout rate fell from 38.5 percent to 33.7 percent over four years, a decline of almost 5 percentage points. That compared to a drop of 1.8 points for the cohort of traditional schools overall.
Significant improvement has occurred in a few worst-case schools. Of the 30 schools with the highest dropout rates in 2004-05, eight made significant improvements over four years – enough to lift them out of the bottom 30 in 2007-08. The dropout rates in these eight schools improved by 12 to 29 percentage points – and the most dramatic examples of progress resulted in schools lifting their graduation rates above the state average.
The report said initiatives with the potential to improve graduation rates exist or are in the planning stages, including Gov. Ted Strickland’s Initiative for Increasing the Graduation Rate, the Ohio High School Transformation Initiative led by KnowledgeWorks Foundation, The American Diploma Project, America’s Promise, The Data Quality Campaign, High Schools That Work, STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) schools and Early College High Schools. It also cited policy changes such as the Ohio Core academic requirements and education reforms authorized under the new state budget.
However, such efforts are part of a piecemeal approach to improving high schools, according to the report. It urged further research to determine which interventions are most effective and can be replicated, as well as a long-term strategy for increasing the graduation rate and broad support for sustaining it. It concluded, “Ohio has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to improve its high schools, an opportunity the state must not fail to seize.”
An executive summary and the full report are available at OhioEducationMatters.org.
Ohio Education Matters (www.OhioEducationMatters.org) works to transform education in Ohio from a system of schooling to a world of learning. The statewide public policy research organization connects the dots between great innovations and those in the community who can make change. As a non-partisan entity, Ohio Education Matters acts as a catalyst of an education transformation by conducting research, advocacy, engagement and policy development that inspires others to make the system changes needed today to prepare Ohio’s children for the future.