School systems trying harder to help kids graduate

SANDUSKY There was a time when students who fell behind could drop out of school and find a good job
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010



There was a time when students who fell behind could drop out of school and find a good job. But those days are gone.

Many area factories have shut down or reduced their workforce. Good jobs are hard to come by -- especially if you don't have a diploma.

By law, students must obtain 22 credits by graduation. Those who don't are considered credit-deficient and will not receive a diploma.

In response to the No Child Left Behind Act, many schools have revamped curriculums to reach students who need extra assistance.

Scott Ebright, media relations representative for the Ohio School Boards Association, said he believes credit deficiency is focused on more now, whereas years ago people ignored it.

"In my opinion, we're doing a better job of educating kids than ever before," he said. "Schools are doing more and more to keep kids in school. When I was in school 40 years ago, kids falling behind dropped out. They didn't finish school and no one kept track of them."

Sandusky High School principal Dan Poggiali said the high school has a handful of students behind in credits.

"It's easy for some kids to fall behind," Poggiali said. "We want them to succeed, so we offer them several opportunities to do so."

Those opportunities include summer school classes and evening classes.

"Most students catch up by the end of their sophomore year and end up being right on course where a junior should be," he said.

The Sandusky Career Center -- located on the Sandusky High School campus -- offers evening courses not only for adults seeking GEDs, but also to help high school students get back on track.

"We have the basic academic classes students likely need," said director Vicki Kaszonyi. "Many high school students who become credit-deficient enroll in classes at night to catch up. The majority of them have failed a class, but many enroll because they've fallen behind or can't fit everything in during the day."

Justin Davis, 21, had an estimated graduation date of June 2005, but said his lack of effort caught up to him.

"I skipped school a lot. I just didn't care," he said. "I didn't drop out, but I was short half a credit in my senior year."

Davis said after a year off he set out to earn his absent English credit. Upon completing the requirement he was told he'd have to take the recently mandated Ohio Graduation Test or not receive his diploma.

"In the evening classes, the teachers have more time to explain. They've helped me prepare for the OGT," he said. "If I could go back, I would've paid more attention. I would've straightened up. You won't make any money unless you have a diploma."

Mandy Ryan, a senior at the high school taking an evening chemistry class, said the $130 per course is a lot, but the advantage of staying ahead is more important.

"The classes really help when students get behind," she said. "I don't think (credit deficiency) is as big of a problem now. There's mostly adults in the classes. The problem is so many students don't prioritize their schedules and they get behind."

Kaszonyi said there are about 60 high school students enrolled this semester, and the small classes are taught by teachers who use methods to rouse the interest of those who've lost interest.

"They may have test anxiety, problems with study skills. The teachers get creative to really reach them," she said. "We provide work that's more on a technical level to relate better to jobs. Because this is a separate program and these are adult classes, no bad behavior is tolerated. There's no detention or Saturday school, and those missing more than 12 hours of class fail. People pay to be here, and they're expected to behave like an adult or they're done."

Classes are limited to two a semester and meet twice a week, Monday through Friday from 5:30 until 9:30 p.m.

Kaszonyi said excessive absences are the main reason students fall behind.

"If they're not here, we can't teach them," she said. "If they're not pulling their time, they get behind. There are as many different reasons as there are students. Some students just don't understand teachers will no longer pass them unless they make the grade. It will catch up to them, and they'll have to repeat courses they've failed."

Other school districts, including Bellevue, Perkins, Monroeville and Clyde said credit-deficiency has slowed because teachers and administrators are working much harder to keep students on track.

"We do a better job today than we ever have with students who fall behind," said William Webb, principal of Clyde high school. "Our guidance counselors do an incredible job of meeting with students who are failing and emphasize communication with the parents."

High School Graduation Requirements

English -- 4 credits (English 1,2,3, and 4)

Fine Arts -- 1 credit

Foreign Language -- 1 credit

Health -- .5 credit

Mathematics -- 3 credits (Integrated Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II)

Physical Education -- .5 credit

Science -- 3 credits

Social Studies -- 3 credits (World History, American History, American Government)

Senior Seminar -- .5 credit (specialized career technical programs complete project in lieu of senior seminar)

Electives -- 5.5 credits

Promotional Requirements: Minimum credits/units required for grade level advancement

To grade 10 -- 5 credits

To grade 11 -- 11 credits

To grade 12 -- 16 credits

For a total of 22 credits upon graduation.