New statewide dashboard shows schools struggle with college credit program

By: - August 18, 2022 3:40 am

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The following article was originally published on News5Cleveland.com and is published in the Ohio Capital Journal under a content-sharing agreement. Unlike other OCJ articles, it is not available for free republication by other news outlets as it is owned by WEWS in Cleveland.

 

A new report looks at who’s taking advantage of Ohio’s College Credit Plus (CCP) program, and it’s not Northeast Ohio schools.

The performance audit from Ohio Auditor Keith Faber shares families saved more than $160 million dollars in tuition costs in 2021. That is about $4,400 per family.

CCP allows high schoolers to earn college credits, reducing the time and cost of attending college. The program also lets a student complete college courses toward a degree or certificate.

But in Cuyahoga County, just 10% of the 49,000 eligible students took part. Neighboring counties like Lorain and Geauga had much higher participation rates. Huron’s rate was twice as high.

CCP saved Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) families an estimated $1,350,000 in 2021.

“For nontraditional, lower income, traditional minority kids, if they take credits in high school for college, their chances of going to college are exponentially higher,” Faber said. “Their chances of succeeding in college are exponentially higher.”

Department of Education data showed the college enrollment rate is about 50% higher amongst CCP participants than the statewide average.

The number of college credits earned through CCP more than tripled in the first seven years of the program, Faber said. As of 2021, nearly 8,000 associate degrees and certificates had been awarded to CCP students while they were still in high school.

Faber wanted to see how the program was succeeding and where it was failing. He and his team created a new dashboard of CCP participation – including rankings of school districts.

“​A​bout 20% of our senior class at some point during their high school career earned college credit,” Executive Director of Career and College Pathways for CMSD Anthony Battaglia said. “That’s a significant win.”

Battaglia said CCP does break down barriers and provides access, but the dashboard shows CMSD is actually behind the vast majority of schools in the state.

CMSD ranks 539th out of 602 schools. Other low-ranking schools include Painesville City Local School District (594), Mayfield City School District (593), Euclid City School District (588) and East Cleveland City School District (585).

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In fact, Cuyahoga County’s top school wasn’t until 137th with Olmsted Falls City School District.

So if this program would most benefit students in urban areas, why is Cleveland’s participation so low? Well, that depends on who you ask.

“The ones that are so low on the participation either have been ignoring that statutory obligation or they haven’t been doing it in good faith,” Faber said.

That isn’t close to being true, at least not for CMSD, Battaglia responded. There are so many reasons why they may have lower enrollment — like having additional Early College programs already and the pandemic shifting education goals.

“We encourage students to do College Credit Plus, at the same rate, we encourage students to do advanced placement coursework,” he said.

Plus, the dashboard data does not take into consideration if a student would be academically eligible to participate in CCP and rather identifies the entire student population, so he says context is important.

“I think both districts and the state can work to overcome that because it’s not every student can do it,” the educator said. “It’s every student who’s eligible to do it.”

Education in Ohio is a controversial topic, with viewers reaching out to News 5 every day to share their disappointment and fear for current legislation which would change the way educators teach and students attend school.

There are also staffing shortages all across the state, with the Ohio Education Association consistently begging lawmakers to stop putting bills forward which would intimidate teachers. When asked about the state of education and the backlash, Faber carefully acknowledged the issue.

“I say this all the time — we need to design our education system, both at K-12 and in higher ed, for the students, not for the adults in the system,” the auditor said. “And in that regard, College Credit Plus is one of those places, too, where we think that there is a clear benefit for the students with, frankly, a benefit for the adults, too. We need to blend that and make sure these programs are successful by education and by programmatic changes that make them more accessible to more people.”

Both Faber and Battaglia can agree that the best way to help families is to help provide more clear information about the benefits of CCP.

“We need to make sure that families are educated about the benefits of College Credit Plus and for those that it makes sense for, that they’re giving the full opportunity to participate,” the auditor said.

Some Cleveland families still lack internet access and state data shows 100% of their students are economically disadvantaged — so the school is focusing on advocating for their students, but at their own pace.

Follow WEWS statehouse reporter Morgan Trau on Twitter and Facebook.

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Morgan Trau
Morgan Trau

Morgan Trau is a political reporter and multimedia journalist based out of the WEWS Columbus Bureau. A graduate of Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Trau has previously worked as an investigative, political and fact-checking reporter in Grand Rapids, Mich. at WZZM-TV; a reporter and MMJ in Spokane, Wash. at KREM-TV and has interned at 60 Minutes and worked for CBS Interactive and PBS NewsHour.

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