When students walk across the stage and receive their diploma, they should walk with the confidence that they are prepared for life after high school. Whether they immediately begin a career, join the military or choose to pursue post-secondary education, students need to be ready to succeed in the next step of their lives. The workforce today’s graduates face is very different from that of their parents and grandparents. Ohio and the nation’s economy are changing quickly, and these changes require more knowledge and skills than ever before. Researchers estimate that 83 percent of jobs paying less than $20 per hour will come under pressure from automation. As many as 47 percent of all U.S. jobs are at risk of elimination in the next 10-20 years.
It’s not just students and families who have a stake in graduation requirements. Higher education, the business community and the military rely on the diploma to signal that students are prepared. Unfortunately, this is not always true:
A diploma should be a credible, trustworthy indicator that Ohio’s 12th graders have acquired the knowledge and skills to be successful after high school. Ohio’s graduation system should:
The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) partnered with educators and content experts to develop more challenging academic standards eight years ago to better prepare students for success in the fast-paced, changing economy. As part of that effort, the Ohio General Assembly and State Board of Education created new graduation requirements in 2014 that were to begin for the Class of 2018. Instead of passing the five Ohio Graduation Tests (OGT), students who meet course requirements have three graduation pathways:
Due to concerns that too many students could not pass the new graduation assessments in the first year, the Ohio General Assembly, based on recommendations from the State Board of Education, adopted alternative – and easier – ways for students in the Class of 2018 to graduate. The new options, for instance, would allow a student to earn a diploma by simply meeting a 93 percent attendance requirement for their 12th grade year and completing 120 hours of community service, in lieu of demonstrating proficiency in English language arts and mathematics. The state extended a variation of these options for the Classes of 2019 and 2020 in last year’s lame duck session, with the expectation that the state will adopt a new permanent system of graduation requirements in spring 2019.
ODE and the State Board discussed the new graduation requirements with a taskforce of educators with limited representation from higher education and no representation from the business community. At the direction of the Ohio General Assembly, over the past few months ODE has begun to engage statewide business leaders in these discussions.
However, the business community remained concerned about the original State Board proposal. Our concerns included:
Building on its principles for a robust graduation policy that will help ensure greater student success, Ohio Excels developed a four-part proposal for policymakers’ consideration:
Identify students at risk of not graduating on time no later than the ninth grade through an early warning system and require written notification to students, parents and families.
Student supports should be at the center of Ohio’s graduation policy. Any student that schools find to be at risk of not graduating on time should immediately receive additional supports for as long as students need them, even after senior year for nongraduates. Educators should also receive the proper training and professional development to effectively implement the interventions to better ensure student success.
To ensure equity of expectations, all students should demonstrate they are ready to graduate using a method that is aligned to the state’s career and college ready expectations, externally verified, and consistent throughout the state. However, as long as measures meet the above criteria, there should be some flexibility for students to demonstrate their readiness.
Under Ohio Excels’ graduation requirements proposal:
All students will select from one of the four options that makes sense for their high school experience and for their plans after graduation:
The state must begin implementing a permanent graduation requirement system for the Class of 2021 even if some of its components must be phased in during subsequent years. Ohio cannot graduate another class of students without ensuring they are adequately prepared. Students should be ready for these expectations — the Class of 2021 was in sixth grade when the state fully implemented new academic standards and adopted the original graduation requirements. It is critical that Ohio begin implementing the new requirements as soon as possible to better ensure student success. Continually moving the bar is disruptive and counterproductive to increasing student success.
To ensure students are successful, state, district and school leaders must focus on the supports outlined in this proposal. This also includes:
Thank you for allowing me to address the Board today on the topic of Ohio graduation requirements.
Chairwoman Kohler, Vice-Chair McGuire, Superintendent DeMaria, board members and staff, my name is Lisa Gray and I am the president of Ohio Excels.
Ohio Excels is a new business coalition focused on helping to improve the educational outcomes for all Ohio students. We look forward to partnering with ODE and the Board, as well as other key education policy stakeholders in Ohio, as we pursue this important work on behalf of students and families. I have shared our brochure which highlights Ohio Excels’ vision, mission and core principles, so I will not do that now.
I am here today to share our position on Ohio’s Graduation Requirements and the Board’s proposal. I have provided you with a copy of our graduation requirements policy position paper. For the sake of time, I will provide an overview of our position and highlight a few concerns.
Before I do that, I want to thank Superintendent DeMaria, Shaun, John, Sarah, Brad, Cassie and others for working with Ohio Excels and other statewide business organizations (Ohio Business Roundtable, Ohio Chamber of Commerce, Ohio Manufacturers’ Association, National Federation of Independent Business – Ohio, Ohio Retail Merchants, Ohio Farm Bureau, and the Ohio Restaurant Association) over the last couple of months.
While my forthcoming remarks will highlight Ohio Excels’ remaining concerns, we have worked together with ODE to address many other concerns, some of which are reflected in the revised Board document that Superintendent DeMaria has prepared for your approval today. We very much appreciate this opportunity to engage.
Ohio Excels believes strongly that an Ohio diploma should be a credible, trustworthy indicator that Ohio’s 12th graders have acquired the knowledge and skills to be successful after high school – whatever they choose to pursue.
As you all know, the workforce today’s graduates face is very different from that of their parents and grandparents. Ohio and the nation’s economy are changing quickly, and these changes require more knowledge and skills than ever before. Researchers estimate that 83 percent of jobs paying less than $20 per hour will come under pressure from automation. As many as 47 percent of all U.S. jobs are at risk of elimination in the next 10-20 years. And the list goes on.
Higher education, employers and the military rely on the diploma to signal that students are prepared. Unfortunately, this is not always true:
As Ohio Excels considered the graduation challenge in Ohio, we established a set of guiding principles to define our work.
We believe Ohio’s graduation system should:
• Identify students as early as possible who are not on track for graduation and proactively notify students and families;
• Include supports, interventions and resources to ensure students have ample time and opportunity to develop the needed knowledge and skills;
• Provide professional development and training to educators so they are able to successfully implement supports to better prepare students for success;
• Expect a minimum level of math and English competency that will lead to success after high school;
• Provide students flexibility to demonstrate competency in a way that aligns to a students’ chosen pathway, not just test-based;
• Allow educators to successfully manage and monitor the data and reporting and be understandable to students, families and educators; and
• Be consistently implemented within schools and throughout the state to ensure equitable expectations for all students.
After listening to the Board’s discussions on the graduation requirements and engaging with ODE staff in the last few months, we continue to have concerns about what will be proposed to the Ohio General Assembly in April.
Our strongest concern is about the inclusion of the culminating student experience as a graduation requirement. We believe that capstone projects and culminating student experiences can be important strategies for deep teaching and learning, if done well. But we do not believe they are appropriate as a graduation requirement. There are simply too many potential pitfalls. These include the strong potential for inequitable expectations for students, variability in scoring, and inconsistent implementation. Based on the principles I mentioned earlier, we believe the State Board’s current proposal has:
This last issue is one that we believe can be addressed by reviewing the current end-of-course exam cut scores. A taskforce of educators, higher education faculty, business leaders and other community leaders should review the expectations and make a recommendation about whether the cut scores and points are set at the right level for graduation purposes.
And before I conclude, I would be remiss if I did not mention again that our proposal includes “non-test options” for students to demonstrate that they have acquired the knowledge and skills that Ohio educators, ODE and the State Board of Education have determined are needed to be successful after high school. But our “non-test options” do not include attendance, GPA or a culminating student experience, for the reasons I have mentioned.
I would encourage you all to review our proposal and reach out if you have any questions or comments.
Thank you for your time today and your work on behalf of Ohio’s students. I am happy to answer any questions you might have.
©2019 Ohio Excels