Ohio students should graduate without passing state tests, panel says

Measure would apply only to Class of 2018, still needs approval by state officials


Ohio could add pathways to a Class of 2018 high school diploma that do not require any passing scores on state tests, if the recommendations made Wednesday by the state’s graduation work group are adopted.

Current high school juniors would be able to earn a diploma by achieving 93 percent attendance their senior year and doing a “capstone” project, or by earning a 2.5 GPA senior year and completing 120 hours of work or community service. They would still have to pass all required courses and retake any state English or math test on which they scored a 1 out of 5, but it wouldn’t matter what they scored on the retake.

RELATED: Local education leaders look for ways to close racial achievement gap

“I think we’re trying to be sensitive to the fact that we’re experiencing a transition right now in education – trying to get to a higher level, but because of the implementation of new assessments and other things like that, the system hasn’t really gotten to the point where it can help every student get to that level,” state school superintendent Paolo DeMaria said.

Ohio’s Class of 2018 is the first group governed by a three-path testing requirement for graduation — they must earn at least 18 out of 35 points on the new, harder end-of-course exams; or they can earn a “remediation-free score” on the ACT or SAT; or they can earn an approved industry credential and a passing score on a workforce-readiness test.

But early state test results worried many educators that graduation rates would plummet under this system, especially since Ohio had a chaotic three-year stretch with three different testing models.

So the 23-member graduation work group was tasked with making a recommendation to DeMaria before the April 10-11 state school board meeting. The group is composed of 15 educators, five politicians, a parent, a student and a business representative.

The first recommendation of the group was that Class of 2018 students who passed their required courses and took all seven state tests (regardless of score) could graduate if they met two of these six requirements: 93 percent attendance senior year, 2.5 GPA in senior-year classes, complete a capstone project, have 120 hours work experience or community service, earn three or more College Credit Plus credits, or earn a score of 3 or better on an Advanced Placement exam.

RELATED: State may soften graduation requirements

At first, the proposal was that students would have to meet three of those six, but several people argued that at-risk students had little chance of achieving the last two. Tom Zaino of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce argued that the remaining requirements didn’t ask much.

“I don’t think they’re that tough,” Zaino said. “I don’t know what it does to lower it, except why don’t we just say everybody graduates?”

State Sen. Peggy Lehner, chair of the Senate Education Committee, disagreed, saying the changes wouldn’t water down a diploma.

“For the kids that are really struggling to pass, I think you’re going to find it’s not easy at all,” said Lehner, R-Kettering. “I’m a little bit concerned that it’s not going to capture as many kids as we maybe think it will. 2.5 is a pretty high GPA. And for an amazing number of these kids, that (93 percent) attendance rate is pretty high.”

Lehner said she is glad the recommendations include non-test-based options toward a diploma, adding she thinks the proposals will get support from the state legislature.

The other recommendation from the group was specific to career tech students. They would have to pass their required courses, take state end-of-course exams and complete a four-course career tech training program. They would also have to do one of three things – earn a “12-point” industry credential, score proficient on WebXams for their career program, or complete 250 hours of work experience with positive evaluations from a supervisor.

A more detailed, and complicated “unified plan” for graduation — assigning points to a wide variety of tests plus things like attendance, course grades, extracurriculars and more — was discussed by the group, but then pulled back for further study.



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