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Editorial: New report outlines ongoing issues for school systems

Dec. 02, 2012 @ 10:35 PM

A new federal report billed as a more accurate assessment of states' four-year high school graduation rates yields a mixed bag of results for schools in West Virginia and Ohio.

The data released by the U.S. Department of Education for the 2010-2011 school year reflected the first compilation in which all states used what was described as a common, rigorous measure. The intent is for states, districts and schools to promote greater accountability and to develop strategies that will reduce dropout rates and increase graduation rates in schools nationwide, according the Department of Education. "Ultimately, these data will help states target support to ensure more students graduate on time, college and career ready," U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said.

We hope that's the outcome.

Ohio's results showed that the state's graduation rate of 80 percent for all students finished in the top half of the listing, although 22 states did do better. Perhaps the most troubling finding in Ohio's numbers was the sizable gap between the graduation rates of white students (85 percent) vs. black students (59 percent) or economically disadvantages students (65 percent). The gap between white and black students' graduation rates, for example, was the fourth highest among all states.

That performance prompted Ohio's acting State Superintendent Michael Sawyers to call on school districts in Ohio to assess their specific data and determine ways to reduce any gaps that exist. He noted that some districts have closed the achievement gap, but added that a change in attitude about expectations for minority and poorer students may be needed in some communities.

However, he added that schools should bolster their expectations for all students regardless of their skin color or home situation. "I hope (the report) creates an urgency," he said.

West Virginia's story was a little different. It's overall graduation rate was 76 percent, about what it has been in earlier assessments -- and a disappointing number. Thirty-one states had better graduation rates. The finding reinforces the calls to make changes in the state's school system to yield higher student achievement, and a better graduation rate is high on the list of expectations from lawmakers who now are considering ways to improve the state's schools.

However, West Virginia appears to be doing a more consistent job of educating different groups of students. Its gap in graduation rates for white students (77 percent) and black students (72 percent) was the third lowest, while the gap between white students and poorer students (68 percent) was the fourth lowest.

Just where Kentucky stands is unknown because it received an extended deadline to submit its data.

In the cases of West Virginia and Ohio, the report makes it clear both need to bear down on improving graduation rates so that more of their students are prepared to continue their education or training or be in a position to land jobs that require a high school diploma. The number of dropouts continues to be alarmingly high.



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