Dayton Public Schools define steps in new graduation system

Seventeen of Dayton Public Schools’ 2019 summer graduates received their high school diplomas in front of their families at a school board meeting. JEREMY P. KELLEY / STAFF
Seventeen of Dayton Public Schools’ 2019 summer graduates received their high school diplomas in front of their families at a school board meeting. JEREMY P. KELLEY / STAFF

Dayton’s school board on Tuesday will vote on their local piece of Ohio’s newest high school graduation rules — a set of three ways the state says students can show “readiness” to move on.

The new state graduation rules, which are complicated, are an option for current juniors and seniors, and are mandatory for the class of 2023 and beyond.

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To earn a diploma, the state says students will have to “do the basics” by passing 20 classroom credits, “show competency” either by passing one state exam each in algebra and English II or by meeting certain career/college/military standards; and “show readiness” by earning at least two seals from a list of 12 (science, job readiness, technology and others).

Each local school can create its own standards for three of those seals — the fine and performing arts seal, student engagement seal and community service seal. This week, Erin Dooley, chief of secondary schools for Dayton Public Schools, explained the district’s approach to those three options.

“The purpose of (the seals) is to demonstrate academic, professional or technical skills that align with student interests and their planned next steps after high school,” Dooley told the school board.

Dooley said for DPS students to earn the arts seal, they’ll have to earn at least three classroom arts credits, passing classes like ceramics, theater, choir, band or others with a C or better in each. Then they have to participate in three or more arts extension activities such as plays, concerts, band seasons or certain music contests.

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The student engagement seal would require participation in six defined activities over four years. One school sports season or school play/musical would count as one activity, as would a full year of a school club like yearbook, science fair or National Honor Society.

Dooley said high school counselors and principals will have roles in tracking students’ path toward the seals. She said some activities will be excluded, but added DPS likely wouldn’t be overly stringent on approvals, “because we want kids to do as much as they can do.”

Dayton Public Schools has struggled to get students from ninth grade to graduation, with the district’s four-year graduation rate stuck below 75% from 2016-19. Given the breadth of options, the seals likely won’t be the main hurdle to a diploma in the new system, compared to the four years of credits or the competency area.

The final local seal, for community service, could help both students and local nonprofits. Students would have to do 40 hours of approved community service or develop their own project.

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“The idea with the community service projects would be that the student would plan and execute the project from beginning to end,” Dooley said.

DPS Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli said she’s asking the board to approve the local seals on Tuesday, so all information will be available to students when they start signing up for their 2021-22 classes in February.

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