Ohio Education Panel Still Crafting Long-Term Fix On Graduation Standards

Sep 4, 2018

With most Ohio students back in school, officials and lawmakers are hoping to prevent a possible crisis like the one that had them scrambling to find alternative graduation requirements for students at risk of not graduating.

The class of 2018 - which should have been the first required to meet tougher new graduation standards - was given some alternative options after the Ohio Department of Education discovered a third of them couldn’t meet the more rigorous requirements. Those options included students using community service and good attendance to offset low standardized test scores.

The state Board of Education has requested the alternative pathways be extended to the classes of 2019 and 2020.

A committee of principals, superintendents and teachers has been meeting every other week, and Senate Education Committee chair Peggy Lehner (R-Kettering) said she’s hoping to see some long-term recommendations from that group soon.

“I’m hoping that the legislature will look at that and say, 'Let’s reconsider something temporary for ’19 and ’20 and move to the more robust system further down the road,'" Lehner said.

Lehner said longer-term requirements likely wouldn’t go into effect until at least 2021. 

Some Ohio lawmakers say they’re worried about the effect of extending the alternative standards instead of imposing stronger requirements now.

Last week, the Ohio Department of Education released its new strategic plan, meant to increase the number of high school graduates enrolled in college, earning a living wage, learning a skilled trade, or in the military one year after graduation. The 35-page policy outlines four “learning domains,” like leadership and reasoning and well-rounded content, as well as 10 priorities, like expanding the quality of early learning and expanding the ways students are assessed.

Across the country, states are struggling to find the requirements that prove students have in fact received the level of education some advocates are pushing for.

Jennifer Zinth, with the nonpartisan policy group the Education Commission of the States, told StateImpact Ohio in April that no one has found the silver bullet, but many are reducing testing requirements.

“States have been moving away from so-called exit exams over the last several years,” she explained, “exit exams being state-set exams that students are required to pass in order to graduate from high school.”