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Heuer: CH-UH Graduation Rate Drop Reflects A Change In Calculation, Not Students

The Ohio Department of Education says the new method of calculating graduation rates is a more accurate measure, but Superintendent Doug Heuer said it penalizes districts for students who take longer than four years to graduate.

On Wednesday, the Ohio Department of Education released some preliminary data from the school report cards, including four-year and five-year graduation rates.

The graduation rate for the Cleveland Heights-University Heights School District fell from 92 percent in 2009-2010 to 75.5 percent in 2010-2011. The five-year graduation rate was 85.7 percent.

Though the numbers could still change, Superintendent Douglas Heuer said the decrease does not reflect a change in students, but a change in calculation.

“The state of Ohio is using a completely different calculation, which lowers our graduation rate.  The federal calculation will divide the total number of graduates by the total number of students who began ninth grade four years earlier,” Heuer said. “The result is that our District is penalized for any students who take longer than four years to complete high school.”

John Charlton, associate director of communications for the Ohio Department of Education, said the new standards, which conform to the federal government’s calculation of graduation rates, track students individually.

“It used to be that the percentage was how many students started in ninth grade and how many students graduated four years later,” Charlton said. “Now it’s a more accurate measure of individual students … We’re actually using an ID number to track individual students to determine who actually graduated and hold districts accountable.”

What happens if a student transfers and drops out? Which school is held accountable?

“They count at the (final) school they were enrolled at,” he said.

But sometimes school districts change students’ ID numbers when they transfer.

“If the new district uses a different state ID, a student who began ninth grade in our district could also be counted against CH-UH,” Heuer said. “With the high transient rate typical of our student population, this is even more likely to happen to our district.”

And Heuer said the CH-UH School District educates more students with special needs, who can stay in a district until they are 22.

But the five-year rates don’t count — the state looks at the four-year rate as a factor of a district’s overall performance.

“The five-year rate was established to give schools credit when they make an effort to graduate kids even when their classmates had graduated— we recognize that persistence,” Charlton said.

Which calculation method do you think is more accurate and best reflects the CH-UH School District? Tell us in the comments below.

Editor's note: The state released data for the 2011-2012 school report cards, but the graduation rates are always delayed. The four-year graduation rate is for the class of 2011 and the five-year graduation rate is for the class of 2010.

Sport September 30, 2012 at 03:22 AM
If a student can not graduate in four years, could it be that they were not prepared to start high school when they began grade 9? Could it be that they were "socially promoted?" Could it be that the middle school that they came from simply did not wish to keep the student in their building, even if they failed their 8th grade, and maybe even their 6th and 7th grade classes? (Yes- in many cases.)

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