Tenth graders at Robert A. Taft Information Technology High School — which went from academic futility in 2004-05 to excellence in 2009-10 — this year posted their worst showing on the Ohio grade math and reading tests since those bleak, bygone years.
Taft’s 10th grade passage rate of 87 percent in reading and 84 percent in math would be glorious at most Cincinnati Public high schools. District-wide, an average of 79 percent of 10th graders passed the reading portion of the Ohio Graduation Test in March and 75 percent passed math. But this was Taft, an excellent-rated school two years running and a 2010 winner of the federal Blue Ribbon School of Excellence award. Since the 2006-07 school year, no less than 90 percent of Taft’s sophomores passed the OGT math and reading tests on their first try. Generally, passage of all five OGT subject tests is required for graduation.
The data is still preliminary, and the school district as a whole had a down year with the 10th grade OGT. District-wide, the 79 percent passage rate in reading was down from 86 percent last year. The math rate of 75 percent was down from 80 percent. On the social studies test, 76 percent of 10th graders passed, down from 79 percent. Only the science passage rate improved, to 65 from 64 percent.
CPS spokeswoman Christine Wolff said in an email that the district wouldn’t discuss the lower passage rates because they are preliminary.
“We have heard that OGT scores appear to be dropping statewide due to the state field-testing several questions linked to the new Common Core State Standards, which are being phased into use in Ohio’s classrooms,” Wolff wrote.
Tougher questions didn’t stop 10th graders at other CPS schools from passing the OGT at a higher rate than last year. Hughes STEM High School and Gamble Montessori posted significant increases in passage rates. Clark Montessori posted a modest increase, and all 376 10th graders at Walnut Hills High School passed every OGT subject test except science (two students fell short). Passage rates fell significantly at Aiken, Riverview East, Western Hills and Withrow International high schools.
The OGT tests are the primary basis of “report cards” for Ohio schools and districts. Last year, CPS achieved an “effective” rating, the highest among the state’s urban systems, while Taft and Walnut Hills were rated “excellent.”
A CityBeat investigation Feb. 22 (“Altered Outcome? Questions surround Taft High School’s dramatic test-score turnaround”) questioned the legitimacy of Taft’s excellent rating. While Taft 11th graders were scoring highly on the OGT, they averaged a composite ACT of 15 the last two years. Moreover, CPS refused to investigate state findings that 88 percent of erasures on Taft’s 2006 OGT resulted in correct answers, a statistic that one independent test expert called “not logical.”