Last updated: August 25. 2013 6:49AM - 35 Views

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Roughly 15 percent of students who start high school in Ohio leave school before they earn a diploma. Many quit because they fall behind early and never catch up. School becomes secondary to other pressing issues, among them pregnancy and parenthood and trouble with the law.The high dropout rate represents a tremendous loss of potential and earning capacity. Dropout charter schools thus offer a critical option for students who have significant life challenges. Without question, it would be unrealistic to expect the dropout prevention schools to move students to graduation at a pace similar to regular schools. They need more time and a certain amount of flexibility to advance a difficult category of students.That's not to say the schools should be relieved of standards for performance that ensure they provide good value to their students. It is a point that state Sen. Tom Sawyer, an Akron Democrat, makes with legislation he introduced this week to hold dropout charter schools to stricter account.Ohio law currently forces charter schools to close if they post poor performance results three years in a row. Dropout prevention schools can apply for a waiver from the state Department of Education. With the waiver, the schools are exempt from closure, regardless of how poorly they perform. More than 25 percent of charter schools have such waivers. Sawyer contends, correctly, that the waivers give a free pass to schools that are not meeting their obligation to students.Remove the closure exemption, and Ohio puts all operators on notice to improve the education of a challenging group of students.

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