By Denise Dick
Trumbull County Career and Technical Center scored straight A’s on the simulated state report cards released this week for career and technical centers, while Youngstown’s Choffin Career and Technical Center earned two F’s and an A.
The Ohio Department of Education released the letter grades, which are simulations and not official, for the new career/technical-education accountability system, saying the system may be the first of its kind in the country. The system exceeds the requirements of the federal Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act, the law that establishes benchmarks for career and technical education.
The data measure and grade centers’ four- and five-year graduation rates and post-program placement rates, or the proportion of students who were enrolled in postsecondary education, advanced training, military service or employed within 6 months of leaving secondary education. Trumbull’s CTC got A’s in all categories.
Mahoning County’s CTC earned an A in four-year graduation rate, a C for five-year graduation rate and an A for placement. Columbiana CTC got an A in four-year graduate rate, a B in five-year and a D in placement. Youngstown, which operates the Choffin Career and Technical Center, earned F’s in both graduation rate categories and an A in placement.
“Holding career and technical centers accountable and ensuring they are providing a quality education is vital to the success of those schools and the success of the students that graduate from those schools,” Richard Ross, state superintendent of public instruction, said in a news release.
The simulated grades are based on the 2010-11 school year. Official report cards for career and technical centers will be released in late August.
Jason Gray, interim superintendent at TCTC, said that when report cards first were discussed for career and technical centers, he didn’t worry.
“We’ve had Perkins performance measures for a long time,” he said. “They’re very similar. We’ve been graded on Perkins measures including language arts, graduation rate, post-secondary placement. ... We’ve always had that in our school improvement plan. That’s why we did so well.”
It’s part of the school’s mission to follow up with graduates, determining if they’re working in the field, he said.
Joe Meranto, Choffin director, said that though Choffin serves only 11th- and 12th-grade students, the graduation rate includes the time before they’re Choffin students.
“We have no control over that,” he said.
On the other hand, students who attend Choffin from other school districts such as Ursuline or Youngstown Christian aren’t counted as part of the graduation-rate calculation for Choffin. Those students are counted as part of their home school’s rate, Meranto said.
“I’m not making excuses — the whole thing is flawed,” he said.
For the one element on the report card that Choffin does have control of, the placement rate, the center earned an A, the director pointed out.
State performance targets, which measure graduation rates based on just those years students are at Choffin, earned about 98 percent, Meranto said.
John Zehentbauer, career technical director at MCCTC, also questions the inclusion of graduate rates in the report cards.
“The placement piece, I understand,” said Zehentbauer. “At the end of the day, we’re a career center. That’s what we do.”
Typically, students enter career/technical centers during their junior year, but those students who are considered special- education and have an Individual Education Plan, can come to career centers after four years of high school.
Under a state law, those students can complete four years of high school, and as long as they don’t take a diploma, they can enroll for two years at a career and technical center.
“With that two years, that student is now a six-year graduate so they miss the five-year graduation mark,” he said.
He’s concerned that some centers may turn those students away for fear of their negatively affecting their report cards.
Chuck Adkins, Columbiana CTC superintendent, couldn’t be reached to comment.