Current high school seniors would have all of last year’s expanded graduation pathways available to them if amendment language delivered Monday by the Ohio Department of Education becomes law.
State Rep. Tavia Galonski, D-Akron, and State Sen. Peggy Lehner, R-Kettering, confirmed that legislators had been waiting on fully crafted amendment language from ODE.
Galonski and Lehner said the proposed language that arrived Monday — which still requires Senate and House approval — would keep all of the 2018 alternatives in place for Class of 2019 students, but would allow what Galonski called “some small tweaks” for the 2020 and 2021 classes.
“We needed to fix some things for these kids, and I am so pumped,” said Galonski, whose House Bill 630 on this issue is scheduled for a committee hearing Tuesday. “The great news is that the 2019 May graduation kids will have exactly what we had last year. These kids can calm down and breathe.”
The key change would be that students don’t have to pass a test or set of tests to graduate. Five years ago, Ohio implemented a new system of graduation tests, in part because some said the existing Ohio Graduation Test was too easy, and graduates were leaving high school without needed skill levels. The new system was to take effect last school year.
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But many educators argued against the tests — that they were too hard, weren’t properly aligned to Ohio’s curriculum or that standardized tests simply aren’t the best way to measure students’ preparation for their futures.
Class of 2018 graduates were given alternatives and were able to earn a diploma by passing their required school classes and meeting two options from a long list of senior-year accomplishments, including 93 percent attendance, a 2.5 GPA, 120-plus hours of work/service, a “capstone” project, earning certain job credentials and more.
Galonski expressed optimism that both chambers of the legislature could pass the bill this week, but Lehner said next week is more likely. While Galonski’s HB 630 moves forward, Lehner said the Senate intends to add the graduation changes as an amendment to House Bill 477, which passed the House earlier this year. The Senate Education Committee meets Wednesday.
“They just got (the amendment) to us today, but now we’re being told that the Legislative Service Commission is all backed up, so we probably can’t get it on (this week),” Lehner said. “We’re still going to try if we can. We’ll know (Tuesday). But we are geared up. … I think it will be next week before we get it done.”
That raises a question of timing — the fall window for high school students to take state tests opens Monday, Dec. 3. But the bill allowing seniors to graduate without the required 18 test points may not be passed by then. So some seniors may take state tests next week, not knowing whether they are crucial for graduation (in case the bill stalls), or meaningless if it passes.
Meanwhile, a new long-term system of graduation requirements will be debated in early 2019, with Galonski saying it would first apply to the Class of 2022, who are currently freshmen.