Senate Education Committee OKs Graduation Flexibility Extension

The Senate Education Committee approved legislation Wednesday to give class of 2019 students the same flexibility in meeting graduation requirements given to the class of 2018, while class of 2020 students would see somewhat different requirements.

Sen. Peggy Lehner (R-Kettering), chair of the committee, said she expects the full Senate to take up the measure Thursday.

The committee inserted graduation language as one of several amendments to HB491 (Edwards), legislation originally written to deal with substitute pupil services licensure.

The amendment also seeks to continue development of a longer-term overhaul of Ohio's graduation requirements, requiring the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) to consult with business leaders and develop more detailed guidance to support the new framework endorsed by the State Board of Education last month. A report from ODE on the subject is due to the House and Senate education committees by Monday, April 1, 2019.

Like the class of 2018, class of 2019 students could earn a diploma by meeting two of nine specified criteria:

- A 12th grade attendance rate of at least 93 percent.
- A GPA of at least 2.5 in 12th grade, based on taking at least four full-year courses.
- Completion of a capstone project.
- Completion of 120 hours of work experience or community service.
- Earning at least three credit hours through College Credit Plus.
- Passing an AP or IB exam with a score sufficient to earn college credit.
- Reaching minimum cut scores on sections of the WorkKeys assessment.
- Obtaining an industry credential or credential worth at least three points.
- Meeting the conditions to earn an OhioMeansJobs-readiness seal.

Under the amendment, the rules would change for 2020. According Lehner, attendance would no longer be among the criteria. In addition, the Ohio Department of Education would be required to establish guidelines defining the requirements for use of the work and community service and capstone project criteria, and the GPA requirement of 2.5 would be calculated cumulatively based on both 11th and 12th grade performance, rather than just 12th grade.

For the long-term overhaul, Lehner said lawmakers want to see more specifics about how ODE would implement the framework supported by the state schools.

"Left out in that [framework] are specific guidelines. They're sort of broad guidelines about demonstrating academic performance, we want some recommendations superficially about what they're going to be looking for. And we'd like them to run that by the business community that has told us what they want more than anything is students who show up, that students know how to work with their peers, etc. etc.," she said.

The State Board of Education voted in November to support the new proposal developed by a workgroup convened by Superintendent Paolo DeMaria. (See The Hannah Report, 11/15/18.) The proposal, designed to supplement the existing three options for earning a high school diploma, would require students to demonstrate their abilities in five areas: English, math, technology, well-rounded content and leadership/reasoning/social-emotional learning. That show of learning could come via scores on state tests or other assessments; GPA; or other demonstrations such as earning an industry credential or completing a "culminating student experience" that could include presentations, research, portfolios, work-based learning, community service and other methods. The board recommended that the new system take effect with this year's high school freshmen, the class of 2022.

HB491 picked up several other changes Wednesday. According to Lehner, amendments accomplish the following:

- Incorporate the language of HB705 (Hambley), regarding liability for school treasurers.

- Specify that suspended students must be given credit for work assigned to them while they're out of school, but not necessarily full credit.

- Enable creation of new counseling education programs now that Ohio's requirement for such programs to be accredited has taken effect; Lehner described this as a technical change.

- Address unintended consequences of legislation enacted earlier this year regarding training for school resource officers, incorporating language suggested by the attorney general's office so the law conforms to current practice at the Ohio Police Officer Training Academy.

Story originally published in The Hannah Report on December 5, 2018.  Copyright 2018 Hannah News Service, Inc.