As schools in Summit County intensify their focus on college and career readiness, a new report shows the county as a whole outpaces most of Ohio when it comes to preparing students for post-graduation life.

The county ranked 20th, although tied with five other counties, in a report released this week by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, an education policy think tank and advocacy group. Medina County ranked first.

Still, just 33% of Summit County graduates in 2016 and 2017 scored high enough on each benchmark of the ACT to avoid having to take remedial classes in college. Just 3% of students earned an industry certification, and 19% passed at least one Advanced Placement exam, which can count for college credit.

The report pulls together already available federal and state data, including ACT scores, industry credentials and dual enrollment rates, to create the county by county ranking.

Across all 88 counties, 26% of students met the remediation-free benchmarks on the ACT or SAT, and 5% of students earned industry-recognized credentials.

"I think we all know that everywhere in the state, from 1 to 88, we can do better," said Chad Aldis, the institute's vice president for Ohio policy and advocacy. "We all know there are too many students not prepared for success when they leave high school."

Aldis said the report ranked counties instead of districts because employers pull talent from across a county and region, not just a single school district. Stark County ranked 19th in the report. Cuyahoga and Portage counties tied with five other counties for 40th place out of the 88 counties.

Counties with large urban school districts as well as suburban ones tended to fare better in the rankings. High rates of remediation-free ACT scores in wealthier districts buoyed some counties. But rural districts can also have harder times partnering with colleges for dual enrollment, or providing students the opportunity to earn an industry credential, two areas where urban districts can take advantage of resources in their cities.

Aldis said the institute hopes the report enhances the conversation across the state about how to improve students' ability to transition out of high school to college or a job.

In many places, he added, that work is already underway, particularly in Akron with the full launch this fall of the College and Career Academies.

The state report card shows just 13.4% of Akron Public Schools students in 2016 and 2017 tested high enough on the ACT to avoid remediation in college.

But even in one year, from 2018 to 2019, APS students increased the number of industry credentials earned from 86 to 1,440, according to district data released in July.

This fall, every high school launched career-focused academies in areas such as finance and health care to tailor academics to students' future career interests.

Rachel Tecca, director of Akron Public Schools academies, said upping the number of certifications students earn is not the only goal of the academies, but rather to re-engage students in learning. That should help pull up the academic-based college readiness numbers, she said.

"To increase rigor, you have to build relevancy," Tecca said. "They go hand in hand."

Conversations with other districts in Summit County have already begun around sharing successes, she said, with many of those conversations driven by the Summit Education Initiative.

"We've worked with some of the neighboring school districts already, just sharing what we’re doing as far as the college and career transformation," Tecca said. "There’s a lot of collaboration between the school districts in Summit County around college and career readiness."

 

Contact reporter Jennifer Pignolet at jpignolet@thebeaconjournal.com, 330-996-3216 or on Twitter @JenPignolet.