Few local students were unable to graduate because they failed to pass the Ohio Graduation Test. One student each from Norwalk High School, New London and Monroeville did not graduate because they did not pass one section of the OGT. The class of 2007 was the first required to pass the exam in order to graduate. Those numbers do not include students who failed one or more sections of the OGT but would have been unable to graduate even if they had passed.
Statewide, 7 percent of the more than 130,000 Ohio seniors did not pass the exam. In March, more than 12,000 seniors from public schools took one or more of the tests. Almost 9,000 of those students failed about 4,000 failed just one section of the test, according to the Ohio Department of Education. A per district breakdown will be available sometime this summer.
While their schools all did well, local school officials were not filled with praise for the test. In fact, most seemed to take an "it is what it is" attitude.
"Instead of dwelling on what the state has mandated, you comply with it and make sure your kids succeed. That's the approach," said Norwalk Catholic School President Walt Klimaski, who had all his students pass.
While every principal and school administrator said they welcomed increased accountability, some questioned whether a be-all, end-all exam was the best method for that accountability.
"I have mixed emotions about high stakes tests," said Norwalk City Schools Superintendent Wayne Babcanec. "These kids, if they don't pass the OGT, have to put their life on hold. We need accountability in education, but having said that, I believe the pendulum has swung too far."
Don Barnes, superintendent at Western Reserve, said the test does show what areas a school is doing well in and what areas it needs to improve.
"I think the test is a valid test and it shows what our students are learning during their school career," said the chief of Western Reserve, which had all its students pass. "I think it's a very good indicator of how students are doing, but it's not the only indicator."
Monroeville High School Principal David Stubblebine also pointed out that time taken for testing can cause scheduling problems.
"The test has taken instructional time away ... it takes a tremendous amount of resources," he said.
However, Stubblebine said the test does serve a great purpose providing guidance to teachers and keeping schools up-to-date on standards.
It is good to place high expectations on students, said New London Superintendent Jim Eibel. Though he, like many other school officials, said some students are simply poor test takers.
"I have reservations about one test defining a student's academic career," Stubblebine said. "Many students struggle with one area of the test. I think the state needs to consider not everybody's good at" every subject.
The key for those who struggle with tests, Eibel said, are the intervention programs offered by each school.
"It's not just three strikes you're out and now you don't have a chance," he said.
The state does provide alternatives for students who fail the test in one of the five subject areas, but Stubblebine said the requirements for the alternative path to graduation are too stringent.
Only one student in Willard did not pass the OGT. But the student was able to graduate because she met that alternative pathway criteria, said Superintendent Dennis Doughty. He too was concerned with the strict criteria because it requires better than a C average in the area where a student failed.
"It's very strict. It doesn't account for the borderline student who's a hard worker but struggles and just gets by with a C, even though they might have been working as hard as they could. It doesn't account for ability," Doughty said. "For kids of average ability and above, they should do fine. I always worry about the borderline student ... even though they can be tremendously productive citizens, they have trouble passing the tests."