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Published: Wednesday, 5/23/2007

Ohio Graduation Test halts 8,956 statewide

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Nearly three-quarters of the public high school seniors who took the high-stakes Ohio Graduation Test in March failed at least one part of the test and will be denied a diploma next month, according to state data released yesterday.

Statewide, 12,387 high school seniors took the Ohio Graduation Test in March. It was the last chance for the class of 2007 to pass all five sections of the high school exit exam before the traditional commencement this year.

Of those who took the test, 8,956 - more than 72 percent - failed one or more sections they took. Among them, 4,251 seniors failed just one test, the Ohio Department of Education said.

"This is not the first year Ohio has had a graduation exam in place," said J.C. Benton, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Education.

"Prior to the OGT, there were the ninth- grade proficiency exams for graduation. Districts have the option to give a summer administration of the OGT, but they are not required to do so."

The education department stressed that the numbers released yesterday are not the same as the number of students who will not graduate on time because of failing the OGT.

Students have to meet the curriculum requirements in addition to passing all five OGT sections to receive a diploma. Also, of the students who failed one test, some of them could have the alternative way to receive the diploma, but there are strict requirements for that OGT-waiver.

There were 295 Toledo Public seniors who took at least one OGT section in March. Of those, 147 failed.

Toledo Public Schools was ahead of the statewide percentage: Nearly 50 percent of the 295 seniors failed their last-ditch effort to pass before graduation.

Thirty-two outraged TPS students who failed at least one part of the test protested on Monday in front of the district administration building on Manhattan Boulevard.

They chanted, "Let us walk," in an effort to sway district officials into letting them attend commencement next month.

Superintendent John Foley remained steadfast yesterday, saying that seniors who failed any part of the OGT could not attend graduation. "There has not been a change in policy," Mr. Foley said. "We called area districts to see what their policies are, and we are fairly consistent with what everyone else is doing."

Mr. Benton said high school students are being tested at more rigorous levels than ever before.

"We believe the OGTs are fair tests that assess where teaching and learning are at this time in Ohio's schools," he said.

He added that a national study concluded that the Ohio Graduation Test reflects an increase in expectations compared with the previous ninth-grade proficiency tests.

"The passing scores we adopted were recommended by two committees made up of Ohio teachers, parents, business leaders, and community representatives, who followed nationally recognized protocol during the process," Mr. Benton said.

The suburban districts near Toledo fared better with OGT results.

Sylvania City Schools, for example, had 15 seniors take the test in March. Four did not pass. Three of those students failed one section, said Nancy Crandell, district spokesman.

Students who are now high school seniors first took the test when they were sophomores. Those who did not pass all five sections - reading, math, science, social studies, and writing - have been retaking the individual sections ever since.

Students have the option to take the OGT once more during the summer, but they would still be precluded from graduation next month.

The other option is to obtain a GED high school equivalency diploma.

Contact Ignazio Messina at:

imessina@theblade.com

or 419-724-6171.



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