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Federal Policy Changes Could Drive Down Ohio’s Graduation Rate

graduating students
Google Creative Commons

Overall, the high school graduation rate in Ohio is climbing, but changes to federal education policies could cause a decrease this school year.

State report cards show the four-year high school graduation rate reached more than 83 percent in the 2016-2017 academic year. It’s an upward trend that Ohio Department of Education officials say has been consistent since 2010.

But the federal Every Child Succeeds Act — or ESSA — could impact that rate negatively this year, particularly for one group of students.

“With the changes to the ESSA calculation, we would only be counting students with disabilities as graduates if they meet the same requirements as their nondisabled peers,” Kim Monachino with the Ohio Department of Education told a committee of the state Board of Education Tuesday.

Monachino said there are 250,000 Ohio students with disabilities who were previously allowed to take different tracks to graduate based on their needs, but starting this year, alternate routes will no longer count toward the federally recognized graduation rate.

The department calculates, however, 80 percent of those students could meet the higher standard.

For the others, Monachino said Ohio can still issue diplomas to students with disabilities who graduate through an alternative route, but cannot count those graduates in the federal statistic.

Some members of the board questioned whether the state could include two graduation rates on report cards- one that reflects the federal standard and one that includes students with disabilities who take alternative routes to graduation.

State Superintendent Paolo DeMaria said the state department could “probably find a way to get comfortable with reporting two graduation rates,” but those changes would have to be implemented before the 2017-2018 report cards are issued next year.

The graduation rate is one of six components measured on the annual school report cards.