Nearly half the students in four of Ohio’s big city public school districts are attending failing schools that rate a D or F on the state’s latest report card, according to an analysis by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

Further, relatively low percentages of both charter and district schools in the state’s eight-largest cities fared well in state and federal accountability systems. Only 38 percent of the district schools met the federal standard for adequate yearly progress, compared with 28 percent of urban charter schools.

The four-city analysis found 46 percent of 183,000 public and charter school students in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus and Dayton attend schools rated either in academic watch or academic emergency, the two lowest categories in the state’s rating system.

The results are especially damning in the context of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, which seeks more accountability from school districts and states for the educations they are providing children. The law also promotes the idea that parents should have a choice in where their children go to school, especially if the school their children attend is failing.

The analysis is strong evidence the state needs to close failing schools, whether district or charter, Ryan said, while high-performing schools should be studied and duplicated.

The Thomas B. Fordham Institute analysis was based on data released August 15 by the Ohio Department of Education for the 2006-2007 school year.

In Dayton, for example, 36 percent of students (district and charter) are attending schools the state considers in academic emergency while 43 percent are attending schools graded academic watch. For Dayton public schools alone, 84 percent of students attend schools in the two lowest categories. Charter school students fare a little better, with about 70 percent of those students in schools rated academic emergency or academic watch.

While Dayton is the worst case, Columbus, where 34 percent of students attended either district or charter schools in the two-lowest categories, is best. In Columbus, public schools out-performed charter schools, with 30 percent of public school students in academic- emergency or academic-watch schools, compared with 56 percent for charter schools.