Most people use the word dropout to describe a person 18 or older who never completed high school. But using data to track dropouts can be tricky. Some students leave school several times and later return to finish their diploma or earn a GED. These students can get labeled a dropout two times or more and that can skew the state’s picture of what happened to them.
Comparing dropout data between states can be even harder because states use different definitions of the term dropout.
Here are a few things to know when thinking about dropouts in Ohio.
1. A student is marked as a dropout in Ohio when:
- They leave school due to truancy
- They leave to get a job
- They leave school over age 18
- They move to another area and aren’t in school
- They completed class requirements, but didn’t pass the Ohio Graduation Test
2. There’s a difference between a dropout event and a dropout status.
Ohio’s school districts track when a student leaves school for one of the above reasons. This is called a dropout event. It’s much easier to track than a student’s dropout status. When students permanently leave school, the state doesn’t have a clear way to track what happens to them, so it’s hard for ODE to label a student with a dropout status (more on this later).
3. Ohio doesn’t report a dropout rate on the district and school report cards.
John Charlton, a spokesperson for the Ohio Department of Education says that’s because students can drop out and then drop back in to finish their education later.
However, Ohio does keep a count of dropout events by grade level within school districts, and that report is available on their website. Data from the 2012-2013 school year show 21,387 total dropout events. (again, some students may be counted more than once in that figure)
4. The U.S. government tracks both dropout events and dropout status.
Nationally, the U.S. Census Bureau defines dropout status as anyone between the ages of 16-24 who does not have a high school diploma, GED, and is not enrolled in school. In 2010, 7.4 percent of the US population was considered a dropout.
The National Center for Education Statistics keeps reports on the dropout rate for each state. In 2010, Ohio had a dropout rate of 4.2 percent. That’s above the national average of 3.4 percent.