Ohio’s "dropout factories"

In 2009, 135 Ohio high schools were identified as “dropout factories” – schools that fail to graduate more than 60 percent of their students on time. Further, despite an increase in the state’s overall graduation rate, Ohio saw a greater increase in the number of dropout factories than any other state from 2002 to 2009 (jumping from 75 to 135). These troubling findings come from the annual Building a Grad Nation report, issued this week by Civic Enterprises, the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University, America’s Promise Alliance, and the Alliance for Excellent Education.

New York and Tennessee lead the nation in their overall increase in graduate rates, which have jumped 13 and 18 percentage points respectively from 2002 to 2009. (Ohio’s rate increased 2.1 points in that time.) Nationally, the number of dropout factories has declined by 457 since 2002 (to 1,550 such schools today). Texas leads the nation in moving schools off the list, with 122 fewer dropout factories in 2009 than 2002.  Another seven states moved more than twenty schools off the list.

But back to Ohio… what schools are the Buckeye State’s dropout factories? The report doesn’t list them, but using publicly available graduation rate data we can get an idea of what buildings they are and where they are located.

In 2009-10, 805 Ohio public high schools received a graduation rate calculation from the state. (Ohio, like many states, provided two graduation rates for that year: a state-calculated rate and a federally required “adjusted cohort graduation rate” (ACGR), the latter offering a more accurate number of how many students complete high school. For the purposes of this analysis, we are using the ACGR, the rate favored by the report’s authors.)

Of those 800-plus schools, 117 failed to graduate more than 60 percent of the class of 2010 on time. You can click here to see a full table of these schools, and here are a few interesting facts about them:

  • Sixty-two of the schools are rated by the state as one might expect (Academic Watch or Academic Emergency, the state’s lowest two ratings; another 11 are not rated at all), BUT
  • Nine received one of the state’s highest two ratings. In fact, four schools achieved an Excellent rating despite their dismal graduation rates.
  • Not unexpectedly, all five of the high schools located in the state’s juvenile correctional facilities made the list.
  • The majority of the schools (73 of them) are charter schools, including many of the state’s drop-out recovery schools, which are explicitly focused on getting at-risk students to graduation, and the state’s largest online schools.
  • The district schools on the list are centered in Ohio’s major urban areas and a few mid-sized cities whose students often face similar challenges as their peers in the urban centers. Cincinnati City Schools and Cleveland Metropolitan Schools lead the pack with seven and eight schools on the list respectively. (The report features a special look at Cleveland and the urgency to revitalize that school district and city.)

The report is chock full of more data, case studies of successful dropout prevention efforts, benchmarks for assessing progress toward improving graduation rates, and policy recommendations. It’s well worth a read and we’ll have more coverage of it and Ohio’s efforts to increase the graduation rate in next week’s Ohio Education Gadfly.

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