EDUCATION IN CINCINNATI
This chapter on education in Cincinnati is divided into three sections; school dropouts, adult education, and functional illiteracy. A fourth section on education in the metropolitan area closes the chapter.
Figure 7 presents the neighborhood dropout rates. These rates reflect teenagers that reported in the census they were not in school and had not graduated. We feel these rates are probably better than really exists and therefore refer to a second data set from the Urban Appalachian Council in this chapter. However figure 7 does reflect the trend of where the highest percent of dropouts live and the neighborhoods with the lowest percent of drop-outs.The second edition of The Social Areas Of Cincinnati, had data on the 16 - 21 year olds dropouts for 1970 and 1980. The third and fourth editions use data on 16 - 19 year old dropouts so the two studies are not directly comparable to the second edition. The data in this report is comparable to that used in School Dropouts: Cincinnati's Challenge in the 80s by Michael Maloney (1). The 1985 dropout study showed that the high dropout areas of Cincinnati were primarily Appalachian and that many inner city African American neighborhoods had 16 - 19 year old dropout rates of less than 25 percent.
A comparison of 2000 census data (Table 6a) and 1980 data shows the 16 - 19 year old dropout rates increased in 14 neighborhoods. Five of these were in SES I, two in SES II, five in SES III, and two in SES IV. In terms of race and ethnicity, the dropout rate increased in five white neighborhoods, four African American neighborhoods, and in three white Appalachian neighborhoods.There was no change in the dropout rate in nine neighborhoods.
In 2000, the neighborhoods with the 10 highest dropout rates (Table 6b) were as follows: Lower Price Hill, 62 percent; Camp Washington, 60 percent; North Fairmount-English Woods, 50 percent; South Cumminsville-Millvale, 49 percent; Linwood, 48 percent; Sedamsville-Riverside, 46 percent; Over-the-Rhine, 45 percent; West End, 45 percent; Fay Apartments, 44 percent; South Fairmount, 42 percent; Walnut Hills, 42 percent; and Evanston 37 percent. Because of ties, there were 12 neighborhoods on this list. Seven are African American, five predominantly white Appalachian. This is a reversal of the 1990 situation when almost all of the 12 neighborhoods with the highest rates were Appalachian. The neighborhoods with the highest numbers (as opposed to percentages) of dropouts are East Price Hill (323), Avondale (308) and Westwood (281).
The dropout rate for Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) rose during the 1990s. In January 1996, the district's dropout rate was reported as a record 54.2 percent (citation 2). In May 2003 graduation rates had fallen to a low of 13% at one senior high school and the overall graduation rate was 60 percent (up from 47 percent in 1999, the year the census was taken). Even these dismal statistics do not reveal how bad the situation can be in some neighborhoods. The 2004 report cited a 73 percent loss of CPS students grades 9-12 in the Oyler attendance area (internal memo, author's files).
If the city wide dropout rate now approaches 40-50 percent, we believe that rates in some areas must be approaching 100 percent. Even in 1990, an analysis of block group data(3) showed that there were 9 block groups with 100 percent dropout rates. Seven were Appalachian areas (Over-The-Rhine tract 10, Linwood, Carthage, and East End) or Appalachian pockets in white areas (Westwood). Four additional block groups in Linwood, Camp Washington, and Northside had dropout rates of more than 70 percent. There were 32 block groups with dropout rates higher than 50 percent. These were about equally divided between Appalachian and African American areas.
The debate rages about how to fix the dropout problem in urban high schools. The future of cities may depend on its resolution. Educators often blame poverty or lack of parental involvement. Alternately, there are the disparities in state and local funding which allow the richest districts to spend more than $13,500 per pupil while the poorest spend $3,500. Critics of the schools blame school bureaucracy, teachers, unions, or the fact that schools are too large and impersonal to respond
to the needs of today's students. Still others see the deterioration of urban public schools as another manifestation of the growing bifurcation of society between an inner city abandoned by the affluent, corporations, and even churches and a suburbia that continues to expand and waste resources duplicating infrastructure which already exists in the core city.
Figure 8 shows concentrations of adults (over age 25) who have less than a high school education. This map, when compared to Figure 2, illustrates a high degree of correlation between education and socioeconomic status. Low-income Appalachian and African American areas show up in the two quartiles with lighter shading (high rates of non-completion).
Of the ten neighborhoods with the highest rate of non-high school completion, (Table 6c) five were predominantly white Appalachian and five were predominantly African American. Nine of these neighborhoods showed improvement in the rate of high school completion since 1990 but Camp Washington's rate of non-completion went up in 2000. These neighborhoods should be a key target area for expanded adult education programs. Beyond that, all of the areas in white or light pink on figure 8 are areas of very high need where from 33 to 62 percent of the adult population lack a high school education.
Table 6b shows the percent of adults without a high school diploma by the neighborhood and SES quartile. Within SES I noncompletion rates range between 35 percent for Avondale to 62 percent for Lower Price Hill. In SES II the range is from 16 percent for Fairview-Clifton Heights to 46 percent for Sedamsville-Riverside. In SES III the range is from 15 percent in Kennedy Heights to 24 percent in Evanston-East Walnut Hills. Progress can be measured by comparing rates for the neighborhoods for 1970 and 2000 in Table 6c. Some of the highest rates in 1970 were Over-the-Rhine (88%), East End (85%) and South Cumminsville-Millvale (83%).
From 1990 to 2000 every neighborhood but Camp Washington saw improvement in adult education levels.
Ten Census Tracts with the Highest Rate of Adults without a High School Diploma, 1990-2000
Ten Neighborhoods with Highest Rates of Non-High School Completion, 2000
Trends in High School Graduates and Dropouts
Functional IlliteracyTables 6b and 6c as well as Figure 9 show the distribution of functional illiteracy. Since the census yields no precise definition of functional illiteracy an eighth grade education level is commonly used as a surrogate variable. There are of course many persons with eighth grade education who can read newspapers, fill out job applications and read directions on medicine bottles. These are the skills lacked by the functionally illiterate. (Unfortunately there are also some persons with more than one year of high school who lack these skills). The functional illiteracy distribution is similar to that of dropouts and adult education. Hence the eighth grade cutoff is reasonably useful. Note the highest rates are in Lower Price Hill, Linwood, Camp Washington, and the East End.
Education as a Metropolitan Concern
One of the major reasons that education is a concern for the entire Cincinnati region is that regional prosperity is ultimately dependent upon the education and the skills of the labor force. Another reason is the presumed relationship between education and the maintenance of quality of our democratic institutions and related personal quality of life.Table 6e shows that adult education levels are improving in both the central city and in the SMSA, though somewhat more rapidly in the latter. Table 6e shows the trend of 16-19 year old dropouts and those who are 25 without a high school diploma. Forty two percent of high school dropouts in 1990 were not residents of Hamilton County. Kenton County with 999 dropouts had both the highest number of dropouts outside Hamilton County and the highest rate of all the Counties. All of the SMSA counties except Warren had dropout rates higher than Hamilton County's rate. Clearly the dropout problem is not confined to the city of Cincinnati.
The same can be said regarding the distribution of persons over 25 without a high school diploma. The highest rate of non-completion was in Campbell County and the second highest was in Clermont County. As with dropouts the highest absolute numbers of persons without a diploma reside in Hamilton County.
Functional illiteracy defined as persons with an eighth grade education or less, is also highest in Campbell County. Boone County has the second highest rate. Hamilton County with over 44,000 persons in this category has the lowest rate of functional illiteracy. Those interested in targeting adult education can either use census tract or block group data to manage data distribution in the metro area or use the SES I area in figure 13 as an approximation.