Softer Ohio graduation standards could extend two more years

Current high school juniors and sophomores might get the same, softer graduation standards that now apply to the Class of 2018, according to state school board discussions.

Rebecca Vazquez-Skillings, chair of the board’s Achievement and Graduation Requirements Committee, said the group will consider a resolution to extend those extra graduation options to the classes of 2019 and 2020.

“The full board will be asked for emergency consideration of the resolution in January,” Vazquez-Skillings said Tuesday.

RELATED: Extra 2018 graduation options explained

If the board approves it, state education officials would take that recommendation to the state legislature for final approval. The same thing happened last year, when the board approved softer rules for the Class of 2018, and the legislature put them into the state budget bill to become law.

Momentum has been growing in some education circles that the pendulum swung too far toward testing and away from other ways to show students’ ability. State Senate Education Committee Chair Peggy Lehner said earlier this year that earning required course credits should mean more. Others, including former state school board President Tom Gunlock, say by asking too little of students, the state is not preparing them for adult life.

Ohio’s high school graduation rate rose to 83.5 percent for the Class of 2016, just below the national average of 84.1 percent.

RELATED: 42% of seniors still have some test points to go

Under the softer rules for the class of 2018, students would still have to earn the required 20 course credits, take all end-of-course exams, and retake any of those math or English exams on which they earned a score of 1 or 2 on a 5-point scale.

But they wouldn’t have to pass the exams. If they didn’t score the required 18 of 35 points, they could graduate by meeting any two of nine other requirements.

The four most likely options of those nine are 93 percent attendance senior year, a 2.5 GPA in at least four full-year senior-year courses, a senior-year “capstone” project, or 120 hours of senior-year work or community service. Other options include earning industry job credentials, or earning Advanced Placement or College Credit Plus credits.

LAST MONTH: Early discussion of plans for Class of 2019

“The resolution will also include a date by which the board will set a long-term plan for graduation requirements for the Class of 2021 and beyond,” Vazquez-Skillings told the state board Tuesday. “As part of this discussion, in both the short and long run, the committee plans to discuss graduation requirements for special education students, which also needs to tie back to the accountability system.”

Vazquez-Skillings mentioned several related topics, including development of alternative assessment strategies, data collection on usage of each graduation pathway, and engagement of educators with the business community.

Asked for details on those issues, Ohio Department of Education spokeswoman Brittany Halpin said ODE officials “will be discussing the resolution requirements with the Chair so it can be presented in January for the committee’s consideration.”

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