Can’t pass the Ohio Graduation Tests? No problem, some charter schools say. You can still graduate.
At some Ohio charter schools, if a student can’t pass Ohio’s five graduation exams — in reading, writing, math, science and social studies — the schools enroll them in a series of correspondence courses through an Illinois-based school.
The student then earns a high school diploma from the state of Illinois. Illinois does not require students to pass a state test to graduate.
In response to questions from StateImpact Ohio last week, the Ohio Department of Education issued the following statement:
[A] district knowingly using state funds to enroll a student in an out of state course of study with the understanding that the student will receive an out of state high school diploma is not acceptable.
The state auditor brought the practice to the attention of the Ohio Department of Education last month.
London Academy is a charter school for students who have dropped out of traditional schools. It’s overseen by the London school district in central Ohio.
London Academy students have been able to earn Illinois diplomas for about the past six years, said Adelle Faulkner, the school’s former director.
“We have students who are trying really hard, but there are kids who just can’t do certain things,” Faulkner said. “Why not give them an opportunity to get some kind of diploma?”
London Students on the “Illinois” track take correspondence courses from American School, a correspondence and online education provider used by many other Ohio schools, and work with London teachers. Faulkner said usually less than 10 students each year take that track.
–Former London Academy Director Adelle Faulkner
“It’s still a rigorous curriculum, it just doesn’t include the graduation tests,” Faulkner said.
London Academy isn’t the only Ohio school that lets students earn out-of-state diplomas, Faulkner said. A charter school run by the Hamilton school district, also in central Ohio, also allows students to earn Illinois diplomas, according to the school’s handbook.
The Ohio Graduation Tests were first required for the Class of 2007. They were supposed to insure that all high school graduates had at least the same basic level of knowledge.
Ohio already offers a way for students who have completed their coursework but can’t pass all the graduation tests to earn a diploma: Students who pass all but one of the graduation tests, earn at least about a C+ grade point average, have good attendance and meet certain other conditions can still get Ohio diplomas.
In its response to questions from StateImpact Ohio, the Ohio Department of Education did not cite the state law that bars schools from funneling students onto an out-of-state diploma track.
And Faulkner, the former London Academy director, says she was never told by the Ohio Department of Education there was anything wrong with the practice.