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Schools adjust on the fly to new graduation rules

Local schools are hiring staff and developing new programs to help high school seniors graduate under new rules set for the Class of 2018 by the state legislature and state school board.

Greeneview Superintendent Isaac Seevers said his district hired a teacher as a part-time “interventionist” to work specifically with students who are not on track to graduate via Ohio’s existing graduation pathways.

RELATED: State legislature approves new graduation pathways

“They will work on test-taking strategies, academic intervention, and will monitor the alternative pathway options,” Seevers said. “We have nearly 30 percent of our senior class who is starting the year not on track.”

How graduation works

The Class of 2018 was supposed to be the first group governed primarily by Ohio’s new end-of-course exams in math, English, science and social studies. In addition to passing enough classes, the original system required them to do one of three things — get at least 18 of 35 points on seven state tests, earn “remediation-free” scores on the ACT/SAT, or earn an approved industry credential and pass a workforce readiness test.

RELATED: State board OKs diploma without passing test scores

But in June, after an outcry that too many students were not on pace to graduate, the state legislature added more ways to graduate, some of which have nothing to do with standardized tests. Students can graduate by meeting any two of nine standards that include 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. There are also test-based, and work-readiness based options.

Local schools react

Northmont school officials said their counselors worked over the summer to determine exactly which students were off track to graduate and developed an individual plan for each student. Counselors will track students’ attendance rate, GPA, and work/volunteer hours, but also work to help them score better on state test retakes.

“Academic interventions, such as special sections of English and math courses or online intervention programs, have been selected to give each student the additional support needed to retake end of course exams,” Superintendent Tony Thomas said.

There’s a lot of data work involved. Piqua and Kettering schools both said they worked with vendor META Solutions on systems to track where students stand on each potential graduation pathway.

RELATED: Two state tests eliminated for Ohio students

Some districts are ahead of the game because they already had graduation requirements that align with the new state options. Franklin schools assistant superintendent Doug Cozad said his district already requires students to complete community service hours, so they have a tracking system in place.

Mad River Superintendent Chad Wyen said Stebbins High School requires all students to participate in a “pre-professional internship” as a graduation requirement. He said that process should equate to the Capstone project that is on the state’s list.

West Carrollton High School Principal Craig Myers said his district has enrolled about 40 of its 200 seniors in newly designed one-semester Capstone courses to meet that new graduation option. At the same time, they’re tracking attendance, GPA and other possibilities for student at risk of not graduating. Students in the Capstone courses will create service-based projects that will benefit the community or schools.

RELATED: Signing-day events urge grads to think about future

“They meet daily, and they’re in the brainstorming phase now,” Myers said. “They’ll develop a proposal, and the final project they have to present to a panel. They have to look at, is this doable, do I have the resources?”

Seevers said Greeneview began the year with 40 students not on track. The district is working through individualized education programs (IEPs) to help 15 of them meet requirements, while the other 25 have been enrolled in a yearlong capstone project. That course has academic, character, career and communication components and requires multiple essays and a final presentation.

Like most schools, Milton-Union was feeling its way through the new requirements in early August. Superintendent Brad Ritchey was cautiously optimistic.

“I would hope most of our students will meet the 93 percent attendance and GPA requirements,” he said. “With our student information system, attendance and GPA would be easiest to track and at our fingertips with current practices.

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