During its December meeting, the State Board of Education's Standards and Graduation Committee discussed graduation requirements and ultimately decided to create a workgroup led by the Superintendent of Public Instruction to review these requirements.
Graduation Workgroup Continues Discussion of Requirements
The workgroup charged with reviewing graduation requirements and consider alternative approaches met Feb. 1. Career technical education is represented by Nancy Luce, Superintendent, Upper Valley Career Center and Greg Edinger, Superintendent, Vanguard-Sentinal Career Center. The workgroup is lead by State Supt. Paolo Demaria and formed at the request of the State Board of Educations Standards and Graduation Committee
The workgroup followed its initial presentation on workforce needs with a discussion of college readiness at its meeting on Feb. 1, though the researcher leading the briefing stressed the two realms should not be seen as "mutually exclusive."
Susan Therriault, director of the College and Career Readiness and Success Center, said students will need a set of transferable, higher-level skills that enable repeated retraining through life, regardless of whether their post-high school plans are to enter the job market directly, attend community college or seek a four-year degree.
"They need to be able to either enter a career or enter post-secondary education and training several times throughout their careers," she said. "Adult retraining is going to be the norm."
Therriault also said discussions of college and career readiness standards need to include a focus on equity of opportunity, noting current statistics show low-income and minority students generally are exposed to comprehensive preparatory curriculum at lower rates, and are less likely both to enroll in post-secondary education and to attain a degree or credential.
Therriault also said her research into other states' efforts to revisit their graduation requirements and college-career readiness benchmarks show struggles with the same issues that Ohio is facing now. Raising standards generally is difficult because it highlights existing inadequacies in schools, including the performance gaps among subgroups of students. And raising the standards is likely to have a disproportionate effect on students already at risk.
On the flip side, lowering standards often only delays those hard decisions, sometimes repeatedly. "So when you lower a higher standard that you've already established, typically it stays low," Therriault said.
Creation of the graduation workgroup stemmed from just such a discussion. The State Board of Education considered a proposal to lower the point threshold for performance on end-of-course exams that would enable students to earn a diploma, but ultimately pulled back in favor of further study via the workgroup. The workgroup is to present recommendations back to the board on how to proceed by April.
A catalyst for the debate was concern from local school officials that too many students are at risk of not graduating on time when the state's new standards kick in for the class of 2018. Ohio Department of Education (ODE) officials presented data to the State Board of Education last year showing about 30 percent of students are at risk of not accumulating enough points on end-of-course exams to earn a diploma. However, the officials stressed that those figures don't provide the full picture, given that end-of-course exams are just one of three pathways to earning a diploma, among other caveats.
The workgroup closed Wednesday's meeting with small group discussions to develop key takeaways from the day's presentation as well as that of the first meeting two weeks ago.
Among the takeaways shared were the following:
- While there needs to be some kind of minimum standards, students are not all the same and need customized approaches.
- Though it's assumed the career-technical education graduation pathway gives students more time to explore careers, in fact they are subject to the greatest number of assessments, since they must take those in their pathway plus those required for the other two pathways.
- Students should be exposed to niche areas to give them an idea of different work and career opportunities available.
- The speed of business is accelerating, increasing the importance of students' learning "soft skills" for employability at the high school level.
- The terminology and definitions of the career-college readiness discussion need to change so that people don't assume pursuing higher education means pursuing a four-year degree.
- Equity and access to resources are important
- Alternatives for students are important so they can explore, discover and lead the way in their education.
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The workgroup next meets at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 15 at the ODE offices on Front St. in downtown Columbus. Superintendent Paolo DeMaria said the next meeting will focus on a detailed review of the state's three graduation pathways.
- Wednesday, Feb. 15
- Wednesday, March 1
- Wednesday, March, 15
- Wednesday, March 29
-Wednesday, April 5 (if needed)