Woman Only Given 3 Days to Live at Birth Earns College Degree

Butler County schools tire of Ohio’s moving high school graduation targets

But some leaders also concede the changes, which include differing standards for three more consecutive years, are generally moving in the right general direction by dropping some exams and offering more alternative options to earn a diploma.

Under the latest changes approved last week by state lawmakers as part of Ohio’s new biennium budget, the four high school classes from 2020 to 2023 will have three different graduation requirements.

But the leader of Butler County’s largest school system said there are “too many moving pieces for our kids, teachers, and staff.”

“Our student body has three different requirements based on their graduation year,” said Matt Miller, superintendent of Lakota Schools.

“While I certainly understand the flexibility in the latest requirements (for the class of 2023), all of our students – and teachers for that matter – deserve consistency based on doing what’s best to obtain a diploma and future employment.”

The legislature chose the new system instead of a plan recommended by the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) after a year of public meetings.

Those meetings, said Miller, would have benefited from more invitations sent to educators.

“The new requirements were designed with a lot of input from the business community. I don’t see that as bad thing, however, more voices from the educational field could have been an asset to the design and overall picture of what our kids need in Ohio,” he said.

Officials from Warren County’s largest district – Mason Schools – said they welcomed some of the changes but contend the state should instead give more flexibility to local school systems in determining graduation standards.

“We appreciate this plan’s reduction of two of the state’s required end-of-course exams,” said Tracey Carson, spokeswoman for Mason Schools.

“However, we would love to see locally elected school boards granted more authority for setting high school graduation requirements and less dictates from ODE, the state board of education, and legislators,” said Carson.

Moving away from student testing

For more than a decade, through the Class of 2017, most students had to pass the Ohio Graduation Test to earn a high school diploma.

The state moved to new, harder tests for the Class of 2018, but then softened the accompanying test-based graduation requirements when it appeared more students would fall short. For 2018 and 2019, students had graduation options similar to those for the Class of 2020.

For the class of high school students graduating in the spring of 2020, they can graduate via the existing three-prong system from the past two years – earn 18 of 35 points on the seven state tests, or score “remediation-free” on the ACT/SAT, or earn approved industry credentials and pass the WorkKeys exam.

But if they don’t meet one of those requirements, they can graduate by meeting two of eight other options very similar to the 2018 and 2019 classes, including a 2.5 GPA, a capstone project, 120 work/service hours, a job-readiness seal and more.

The variations in graduation options then expand for students graduating in 2021 and 2022.

Each of the four grade levels in high school this fall will have to pass 20 classroom credits, but here’s a look at their requirements beyond that.

• Class of 2020: The system for rising seniors was set by the legislature in December. They can graduate via the existing three-prong system from the past two years – earn 18 of 35 points on the seven state tests, or score “remediation-free” on the ACT/SAT, or earn approved industry credentials and pass the WorkKeys exam.

But if they don’t meet one of those requirements, they can graduate by meeting two of eight other options very similar to the 2018 and 2019 classes, including a 2.5 GPA, a capstone project, 120 work/service hours, a job-readiness seal and more.

• Classes of 2021 and 2022: The existing three-prong system listed for 2020 is still an option – state test scores, ACT/SAT scores, or job credentials/WorkKeys exam. But the eight alternative options from 2020 go away. For these students, their alternative route to a diploma is the new 2023 system. That could require a quick adjustment for rising juniors and their schools, as some of the details of the 2023 system likely won’t be final until the very end of those students’ junior year.

• Class of 2023: These students will be governed solely by the new system the legislature just passed, unless the system is tweaked again, as it has been three times in the past two-plus years.

State Superintendent Paolo DeMaria said he thinks ODE’s plan offered students better flexibility, but he is happy that the ensuing debate pushed the state to some form of flexible, multi-path diploma structure.

DeMaria said it will be essential for ODE to work with “deliberate speed” to finalize diploma standard details and competency scores, so that the Classes of 2021 and 2022 can have enough time to make good decisions.

For years, Ohio (and the nation) have debated whether standardized tests are the right measure of student readiness.

Under the new system, two of the state’s high school tests will be eliminated for 2023 – Geometry and English I.

The state changes are headed in the right direction said some local officials.

Lakota school board member Brad Lovell said “while it is concerning - and a disappointment - that there is different requirements for each graduation year, I feel that we are on the right path.”

But others said the series of changes in recent years has them concerned.

Bill Rice, principal of Fairfield High School, said “although we are glad to see a reduction in the over-emphasis of high stakes testing, we must recognize that this is the third change in the requirements for graduation for the four classes currently in high school.”

“For each of us that work to serve our students we are looking for consistency in the requirements, and we seek to have more of a voice in Columbus with ODE and the state legislators that are passing these mandates,” said Rice.

And Holli Morrish, spokeswoman for Talawanda Schools, echoed that position, saying “more stability is needed in the area of graduation requirements, it’s changing too much and too often.”

“Now we have three different graduation options/requirements that differ from one another for current students at Talawanda High School,” said Morrish, who said teachers also need more options adjusting to the new standards.

“Faculty and staff serving these students need more options in order to help students graduate, be prepared, and successfully move on to their next big thing in life,” she said.

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