• Joanne Jacobs

Akron raises grad rate by lowering expectations

Akron’s graduation rate will soar to 93 percent this year. It’s not progress, writes Fordham’s Chad Aldis. The district lowered the bar dramatically to make its numbers look good.

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At the start of the school year, only 54 percent of the class of 2018 was on track to graduate, school officials told Theresa Cottom at the Beacon Journal. That was down from a 74 percent graduation rate the year before.

“Rather than helping students acquire a diploma through shoring up academic weaknesses to pass end-of-course exams or earn an industry certification, Akron opted to take advantage of the alternative — and much softer — graduation requirements pitched by the state board and passed earlier in the year by Ohio lawmakers,” writes Aldis.

The new requirements are absurdly easy. Students need only meet two of nine metrics, which include non-academic measures such as 93 percent attendance during a student’s senior year and completing 120 hours of community service. . . . After identifying all the students who weren’t on track to graduate, district officials required those lacking end-of-course exam points to complete a “senior project.” The second alternative metric was left up to students, and most chose the GPA (a senior year 2.5 average), good attendance or community service options.

“Mentors and advisers did a lot of hand-holding” to get students to meet the requirements, said Marcie Ebright, the district’s digital learning specialist, reports Cottom.

Aldis wonders about students who couldn’t pass end-of-course exams, with multiple tries, but earned a diploma because they were walked through a project and managed to show up most of the time or volunteer. “Will they actually have an education?” he asks. “Will they have an opportunity to pursue the American Dream? Or are their diplomas more like sports participation trophies, which are essentially meaningless since everybody gets one?”

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