While Ohio Board of Education administrators decide whether a portion of the new graduation requirements for high school students is too lofty, a co-sponsor of the original legislation says they should remain rigorous but be introduced gradually.
Under the requirements of House Bill 487, passed by the Ohio General Assembly in 2014, high school graduates of 2018 and beyond must complete at least 20 required credits. They include four units each of math and English language arts, three units each of science and social studies, five units of electives, and one-half units each of health and physical education.
Additionally, the students must complete requirements in fine arts and economics and financial literacy, and meet the requirements for one of three pathways:
• Earn a cumulative passing score of 18 over seven end-of-course tests. Those points must include a minimum of four in math and English and six across science and social studies. A total of 35 points can be earned.
• Earn 12 points through a BOE-approved and industry-recognized credential or a group of credentials and receive a workforce readiness score on a WorkKeys assessment.
• Earn remediation-free scores in math and English language arts by taking either the ACT or SAT exam.
The state will pay one time for a student to take the exams or the WorkKeys assessment.
The new requirements will replace the present Ohio Graduation Test for high school students scheduled to graduate during the 2017-18 school year and beyond.
Ohio BOE spokesperson Brittany Halpin said the first pathway in the requirements has since come under scrutiny after complaints were lodged by some school districts.
“They’ve heard from some superintendents across the state that this may be too high of a bar,” she said of the passing score of 18.
Wauseon Superintendent Larry Brown chose not to comment, saying, “Unfortunately, I do not have a statement until the 132nd Ohio Legislative Assembly has acted on probable future legislation in this area.”
Jeff Schlade, superintendent of Swanton schools, agrees the testing will be more difficult. But he said, according to Swanton High School Principal Jason Longbrake, most students think it’s fair.
“Math is tough, but math always seems to be tough, no matter the test,” Schlade said.
Pike-Delta-York Superintendent Ted Haselman would like the state to phase in the OGT replacement “rather than the abrupt way they’re doing it, and imposing it on this year’s juniors. We work on graduating kids from the time they set foot in the high school. ODE is changing these requirements mid-stream for students.”
As chairman of the state’s Education Committee, Sixth District Ohio Senator Peggy Lehner co-sponsored the original version of House Bill 487, which was signed by Gov. John Kasich in June of 2014 to initiate sweeping reforms in Ohio education. Lehner said the original version was part of a larger education bill and was meant to eliminate the OGT, an eighth grade test.
“It was felt universally that we needed a more rigorous standard,” she said.
Lehner said much thought went into creating the new requirement pathways, which recognize that not all students will enter college. However, she agrees with complaints by school superintendents that they’re too much, too fast.
“The schools are not used to teaching at that level to all students, and it’s being reflected in high failure rates. There’s a reality there that hurts,” she said. “We need to lower the standards, then raise them gradually, or come up with some additional pathway in the interim.”
Students must be prepared for the demands of the 21st Century, and the seven end-of-course exams in the first pathway would reveal exactly where each student stands, Lehner said.
Ohio BOE Superintendent Paolo DeMaria will make a recommendation on possible adjustments to the new requirements by April, leaving the Board of Regents to determine whether they should be made.