Task force to review concerns over graduation requirements

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The state Board of Education is creating a task force to review Ohio’s graduation requirements and make recommendations for addressing concerns that new requirements are putting a large number of current high school juniors at risk of not graduating on time.

Some school superintendents estimate one-third or more of their current juniors are in jeopardy of not graduating in 2018 unless officials alter requirements for that class. To graduate, they must earn certain points on more demanding end-of-course exams, achieve a remediation-free score on a college entrance exam or get a job credential for certain industries.

The board voted Tuesday to create a panel to make recommendations about the graduation requirements, which begin with the class of 2018. The group would include educators, school administrators, lawmakers and parents, among other stakeholders.

Earlier Tuesday, a board committee rejected a proposal to lower the points requirement for the end-of-course exams.

Some board members expressed concern about adjusting the requirements while having limited data to inform their decisions. Staff from the Oho Department of Education told the board that about two-thirds of current 11th-graders have either met the end-of-course exam point total or are considered highly likely to do so by 2018. They emphasized that projected number isn’t an anticipated graduation rate and reflects only one of the pathways to a diploma, not alternatives such as the job-credential option.

The school board’s decision about creating the task force came the same day Republican Gov. John Kasich’s executive workforce board issued recommendations for how education, nonprofit, labor and business sectors can work together to remove barriers to the job market. Kasich charged the board in September with coming up with the suggestions within 90 days.

The workforce board’s report recommended several proposals related to high school graduation. Those included counting apprenticeships and credentials earned by high-schoolers toward their diploma; beginning college remediation transition classes before students leave high school; and aligning pre-apprenticeship programs with the College Credit Plus program, which allows students to earn college credit at no charge while still in high school. The board also suggested creating incentives for inmates to earn their high-school equivalencies.

Other ideas from that board call for “re-branding” Ohio’s reputable public library system as a network of “continuous learning centers” encouraging teacher externships, increasing businesses’ commitments to local school boards and urging clearer relationships between school superintendents and local chambers of commerce.

The report also recommends re-directing some state higher education funding to shorter term, non-credit certifications. Kasich’s office said he plans to incorporate the board’s ideas into the two-year state budget he introduces next month.