With multiple recent changes in the graduation system for Ohio high school students, here are five key things to know heading into the 2017-18 school year:
Who do the graduation changes affect?
So far, the changes of the past month only affect the Class of 2018 – kids who will be high school seniors this fall.
They were supposed to be the first class governed by harder graduation tests (with most kids needing 18 out of 35 points on seven end-of-course exams). They can still graduate by meeting that standard, but the state legislature just approved a more flexible pathway to a diploma for those who don’t get 18 points.
So what does the Class of 2018 really need to graduate?
They still have to earn 20 course credits by passing classes at their school.
They still have to take the end-of-course exams, and retake any math or English exam where they scored 2 or lower out of 5.
But if they don’t get 18 points, they could graduate by meeting any two of these nine requirements:
* 93 percent attendance senior year
* A 2.5 GPA in at least four full-year senior-year courses
* A senior-year “capstone” project
* 120 hours of senior-year work or community service
* Three credit hours via College Credit Plus
* Passage of an Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate class and exam
* A “level three” score on each of three components of the WorkKeys test
* Industry credentials totaling at least three points in Ohio’s system
* Receive an Ohio Means Jobs readiness seal.
Are there even more ways for the Class of 2018 to get a diploma?
You bet. All three original pathways remain available – 18 points on the exams, remediation-free scores on the ACT or SAT, or earning an industry credential and a solid score on the WorkKeys job-readiness test.
And the state legislature added even another path for career-tech students. They can earn a diploma by completing their regular courses, plus a four-course career technical training program, and then meeting one of three standards – proficiency on their technical exams, 12 points worth of industry credentials, or 250-plus hours of work, with positive evaluations.
Do most people generally agree with this move?
There are differing opinions, but many school officials support the change. Most say course grades over time are more important than “snapshot” tests. Some teachers say kids should have more options than just a test to prove their abilities. And both legislators and educators say it would be unfair to rely on test scores for the Class of 2018, given how often the tests changed for those students.
Opponents of the change generally think Ohio should be raising the bar for its students, saying higher expectations are needed to produce better-prepared graduates. Some argue a test score offers objective proof of knowledge, saying a teacher’s grades can be subjective. And some members of the workgroup that first proposed these changes thought they were too soft – a student could miss 12 days of their senior year and work one four-hour shift per week to meet the diploma standard.
What’s going to happen for the class of 2019 and beyond?
As of today, they’re bound by these standards — 18 points on end-of-course exams, or a remediation-free ACT/SAT score, or an industry credential and solid WorkKeys score. But everyone from the state superintendent, to state legislators, to local school leaders have called for a different system, so changes are very possible.
Many are arguing for some type of flexible framework like the one created for the Class of 2019. The argument is that the pendulum has swung too far toward testing, and students should have other ways to demonstrate what they know and can do.