An Ohio Senate committee has approved "alternate pathways" to graduation for high school seniors and juniors who are not on track to earn their diploma through the current method of using standardized test scores.
These extra options, amended into HB 491 for the Class of 2019, include a GPA of 2.5 or higher and a 97 percent attendance rate. The Senate committee also extended these pathways for the Class of 2020 without including the attendance rate option.
Up to a third of high school seniors are thought to be in danger of not graduating under the tougher standards, which were approved in 2014 and were intended to first apply for the Class of 2018. The Ohio House and Senate also provided these alternate pathways for that class as well.
The debate over how tough the standards should be has been going on for years now. The Thomas B. Fordham Institute has been a main proponent of the more stringent requirements.
"The point of raising the bar in the first place was to help students be prepared when they leave high school," says Chad Aldis, vice president for Ohio policy and advocacy at the Fordham Institute. "While adults in the education system will rejoice if this change becomes law, students taking an easier path and left without an industry credential or grade level math and English skills will be left to pay the ultimate price."
But state Sen. Peggy Lehner (R-Kettering) disagrees with the idea that these pathways set the bar too low.
"What it means is that we feel comfortable in saying the student is meeting the minimum standard for academic performance as well as for some of the social skills that they’re going to need to be successful in the workplace," Lehner says.
The Senate Education committee, which Lehner chairs, plans to take on a proposal next year from the State Board of Education that would permanently change the high school graduation requirements.