LORAIN — As much as 25 percent of Lorain High School’s senior class is at a risk of not graduating this year.
District CEO David Hardy explained at the Academic Distress Commission meeting Monday that while about half are on track to graduate this spring, and another 25 to 30 percent have the credits and just need “that push to get over the finish line,” as much as 20 to 25 percent of students may need major interventions to walk across the stage.
When asked how something like this could happen by Commission Chairman Tony Richardson, Hardy said a number of students, including those at the district’s Success Academy, had a large number of credits, but not many that fulfill graduation requirements.
“There are a lot courses that were filling their schedules and not putting them into a position to graduate. … A number of kids have 17, 18, 19 credits but have four or five or six credits that actually count toward graduation. … We’re realizing this longitudinal challenge that we’re facing.”
He plans to share specific plans at the December meeting how the district is handling these seniors’ needs, but said the problem could be caused in part by students not entering high school equipped to succeed, or not showing up for class at all.
One “red flag,” Hardy said, is last year 199 freshmen did not pass. This year’s class has 656 enrolled with roughly 576 attending.
He said some students have not been ready for end-of-course assessments, causing them to fail and not receive credits.
He also said roughly 38 percent of high school students are chronically absent — defined by the state Department of Education as missing 10 percent or more of the school year for any reason.
The other component, Hardy admitted, is that some schedules in the past have been made without looking at the bigger picture of what core classes students could need.
“There have been times where out of necessity we put kids in classes versus actually purposefully putting kids in classes,” he said. “And so, I hate to say it, but we’re stuffing kids into rooms … and not really thinking about the trajectory …”
Debra Patterson, whose daughter is supposed to graduate this spring, asked what would be done for seniors short on state credits. She said at the school district her niece attends, her mother received letters in the mail warning her student didn’t have enough state credits and she was able to work on the issue over the summer. While Lorain offered options like that, she said many parents didn’t know about it. For the class of 2018, the state requires students to earn a minimum of 20 credits, broken down by subject.
Hardy said the district uses Apex Learning as an intervention system, allowing students to catch up on credits they are missing. The digital system allows students to come in after school or on Saturdays to be able to pass end-of-course evaluations. The district is also looking toward the juniors and underclassmen to try to monitor credits and mitigate issues before its too late.
Richardson recognized the systemic issues surrounding the statistics presented, later commending Hardy for bringing the problem to light.
“We didn’t get here overnight,” Richardson said. “And that’s one of the things I try to preface when I speak publically about some of what’s happening in Lorain City Schools and in other districts across the state. … In terms of as adults, as a community, we’ve neglected our responsibility to hold our districts accountable.”
While school administrators work to get seniors caught up, the Academic Distress Commission will also have to wait until December to discuss the district’s report card scores, so Hardy and his team can look at the scores in depth.
The Ohio Department of Education released report card scores Sept. 13, with the district no closer to removing itself from state control after receiving an F overall. The school received F’s in achievement, profess, gap closing, graduation rate and prepared for success, while earning a D in the improving at-risk K-3 readers component on its 2018 report card. Under House Bill 70, the district must receive C’s or better in the value-added and performance index component for two years in a row to be released from state control.
Hardy has yet to publicly discuss the district’s performance, and said he plans to look at it in-depth before the next meeting. Under House Bill 70, Hardy only has four more years to get the district’s scores up.
The commission will meet next in December. Normally slated for Mondays, members are looking to move the meeting to a different night of the week, so as not to coincide with the district’s regular school board meeting or Lorain City Council.