Graduation requirements may change for Ohio high school juniors

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Graduation requirements may change for Ohio high school juniors

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Paolo DeMaria discusses recommendations of the state's graduation workgroup.

The state school board on Tuesday threw its support behind pathways to graduation for Class of 2018 students who don’t pass state tests.

The board backed the recommendations of the state workgroup – to allow those current high school juniors to earn a diploma via a mix of senior-year items like 93 percent attendance, a 2.5 GPA, 120 hours of work/community service or a “capstone project.”

There are eight such markers, and students would have to achieve at least two of them, along with completing – but not passing – the seven state end-of-course exams.

The state legislature would still have to approve these changes, and Sen. Peggy Lehner, chair of the Senate education committee, said there could be small tweaks, but she believes there is general legislative support.

It’s likely that the state legislature will take up the issue during the state budget process now through June.

“I think the recommendations are good. As (state superintendent Paolo) DeMaria said, there’s been very little pushback,” Lehner said.

She said she doesn’t think the recommendation would lower the standards for an Ohio diploma.

“I feel every one of those alternative pathways that they’ve provided are still within the parameters of what we already were doing, are reflective of a certain level of diligence,” Lehner said. “For example, 93 percent attendance. A student who’s in their seat 93 percent of the time is going to be learning.”

The changes were first suggested after many school superintendents said Ohio’s 2018 graduation rate may drop significantly from its current 83 percent mark, because not enough students will earn the 18 points required on Ohio’s seven new, harder tests.

State Superintendent Paolo DeMaria again presented data Tuesday suggesting that the percentage of Class of 2018 students who were on track to graduate through two years of high school was roughly the same as in past years. That led to brief debate on whether the long-discussed changes are needed, as state board member Kara Morgan questioned that data.

Lehner argued that there is a key difference in the new subject-specific tests, making it less likely that students will score significantly better when they retake the tests months or a year after they finish the coursework.

DeMaria talked about trusting the voice of superintendents who had raised the issue as a major concern, emphasizing that it was only a one-year fix. State board member Pat Bruns argued that accommodations should be made for current high school juniors who have been through multiple changes in testing systems.

Chad Aldis of the Fordham Foundation, a charter school sponsor, was the only member of the public to speak. He said the ability to graduate without any test score proof of knowledge would be a step backward, and would kill the current incentive of students and schools to work harder to meet a higher bar.

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