High school juniors face pressures if they want to graduate in 2018

Middletown City Schools superintendent Sam Ison speaks during the k-12 Education Summit hosted by the Chamber of Commerce serving Middletown, Monroe and Trenton Thursday, April 6 at Forest Hills Country Club in Middletown. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
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Middletown City Schools superintendent Sam Ison speaks during the k-12 Education Summit hosted by the Chamber of Commerce serving Middletown, Monroe and Trenton Thursday, April 6 at Forest Hills Country Club in Middletown. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Eighteen will be a very important number for next year’s senior, and not because they’re the Class of 2018.

Those who want to graduate from high school next year must score at least 18 points on the state’s new American Institutes for Research (AIR) tests for the Ohio Department of Education, said Tom Prohaska, Monroe High School assistant principal.

He was one of three featured speakers at Thursday’s K-12 Education Summit presented by the Chamber of Commerce Serving Middletown, Monroe and Trenton.

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He said students in Ohio will take seven end-of-course assessments with each assessment having two parts. Freshmen will take Algebra I and English I, sophomores will take Geometry, English II, American History and Biology and juniors will take Government.

The AIR replaces the Ohio Graduation Test assessments that were given to sophomores, Prohaska said.

He said sections of the test will be aligned with the courses the students are taking that particular year. Each assessment is rated on a performance scale from five down to one. Out of a perfect score of 35, a student must earn at least an 18 to be eligible to graduate.

They must score at least four points total in English I and II, four points in Algebra I and Geometry and six points in History, Biology and Government.

The scoring system was created to provide flexibility for the students; to offset areas of weakness by giving students the opportunity to score higher in areas of strength, he said.

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He said it’s a “logistical nightmare” keeping track of all the students’ scores.

Also, Prohaska said, for the first time, the ODT allowed every junior in the state to take the ACT for free. He said 47 percent of the juniors at Monroe said that was their first time taking the test. He called that “a good thing” because now they may take the test again after they gained confidence.

Another speaker, Phil Cagwin, Monroe superintendent, talked about how public school systems have changes. He said students can take college prep courses either at the high school or college or take vocational classes at Butler Tech. These classes are free to the students since the districts are responsible for the financial burden, he said.

Given the educational opportunities, he said public school are asking: “Where do we fit in right now?”

Public schools are “almost in a competitive market for students,” Cagwin said.

He has told teachers: “You need to be on your ‘A Game’ at all times. You need to add a value to these kids’ lives they can’t get somewhere else.”

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The entire landscape of public education has changed.

“It’s a different world than when I went to high school,” Cagwin said. “When I went to high school, it was high school. That was your only option.”

Middletown Superintendent Sam Ison said the district has seen great success with connecting students to potential employers. He said 27 Middletown area employers have connected with 60 high schools students, who work a couple of hours a week without pay.

He said employers have contacted the district and shown interest in hiring particular students.

“That has allowed them to find a sense of confidence,” Ison said. “This is working folks.”

Business leaders have told Ison they’re looking for candidates who are 18, high school graduates and those who can pass a drug test.

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