Problems can seem simple to solve until we truly understand them. The danger in oversimplifying problem-solving — in a public forum — is that some folks may actually believe those solutions really are as simple as someone is telling them. In most cases, they are not.

Such is the case with the May 17 commentary by Chad Aldis of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute (“When progress really isn’t progress”). Aldis’ argument that standards are being watered down so we can graduate more students is flawed because standards are actually much more stringent and rigorous now.

Recently, Mark Black, our director of secondary education, reported to our board that at the beginning of the school year, 54 percent of Akron Public Schools seniors had already met requirements for graduation. It is important to note that figure was not a projection for how many students would graduate in June.

In October, after the school year had begun, the state Department of Education added alternative solutions for students to continue to pursue a diploma, even though they had not yet met the previous standards. The standards are rigorous, not watered down.

As educators, we know that some students do better if given an alternative to merely using testing as an indicator of intelligence. For those who had not yet met the requirements, they now had opportunities to earn the 18 points needed for graduation by later in the school year.

Mark Black employed an aggressive approach and brought in retired educators to volunteer to help students who had gotten off track. They could, with mentoring, follow the alternative pathways and indeed still graduate. As of this day, we have increased the number of seniors now on track to graduate by nearly 40 percentage points thanks to his plan. Here is how we arrive at this projection:

• We have 1,444 students in the class of 2018.

• 54 percent have met the graduation requirements by achieving 18 points on the Ohio State Test and accumulating 21 credits. Students not in that group, though, still have two more attempts at the tests.

• 37.2 percent have met two or more of the Alternative Pathways and accumulated 21 credits for graduation.

• 1.7 percent are in progress to meeting two of the nine Alternative Pathways needed and to accumulating the necessary credits.

• 7.1 percent are off track in meeting two of the nine Alternative Pathways and accumulating 21 credits.

As we have stated publicly, we could graduate 93 percent of the 1,444 seniors that are with us now. That is how many are on track to graduate. This has a slight margin for error, though, because these numbers do not include students who may drop out. The final graduation formula has that and other components playing a part in its determination.

We realistically project our graduation rate at least 10 points to 15 points higher than our previous rate of 73 percent. Suffice to say, this alternative solution by the state, which focuses on academic rigor and demonstration of college and career readiness, combined with our aggressive approach is working for our students and their families.

Let’s pretend it is 1993, because many of us who graduated high school before 1994 would have been the beneficiary of a less rigorous set of graduation standards than students who picked up their diplomas between 1994 and today. That group of beneficiaries would include Chad Aldis, who would have — had he been born just a few years later — found himself with anything but watered down standards.

As it was, for Aldis to have graduated from high school, all he had to do was his homework, get his 18 credits and pass his final exams. So the argument he presents is flawed.

I’m adding a link for those of you who can go online to our website to see what Ohio state standards are. For those of you who graduated prior to 1994, think about how you might have done using today’s benchmarks.

Let’s be clear about one thing. Today’s students do not have an easier path to graduation. Much to the contrary. I began by telling you that solutions seem simple until we really have an understanding of the problem. We hope readers of this will not do what Aldis did and oversimplify the solution. This is much too important for any of us to employ that “logic.”

James is the superintendent of the Akron Public Schools.