Westerville News & Public Opinion

Evolving graduation requirements

New system replaces OGT for this year's freshmen

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This year's incoming Westerville freshmen will forego the Ohio Graduation Test and have different requirements for their diploma.

As part of House Bill 487, the class of 2018 will be required to take end-of-course exams and meet one of three college- and career-ready requirements.

The new updated graduation requirements are designed to ensure that students are well prepared for college or a career upon finishing high school.

"We've known for a long time that the requirements were changing. House Bill 487 specifically decided what those changes were," said Scott Reeves, the Westerville City School District's executive director of secondary academic affairs.

This year's sophomores, or the class of 2017, will be the last class required to take the OGT as part of a graduation requirement.

The freshmen will be required to take end-of-year course exams in various core classes: algebra I and geometry or integrated math I and II, physical science, American history and American government, and English I and English II.

In addition, 2018 graduates will have to meet one of three requirements:

• Achieve a State Board of Education-approved passing score on all end-of-course exams.

• Achieve a remediation-free score on a nationally recognized college admission exam, such as the ACT or SAT. The state will pay for students to take the exam in the 11th grade.

• Earn an approved, industry-recognized credential, certificate or state-issued license in a career that indicates job readiness.

The class of 2018 still will have to complete the same Ohio course requirements. Students must complete four units each in English language arts and math, half-units each in health and physical education, three units each in science and social studies, five units of electives, and at least two semesters of economics and financial literacy courses and fine arts courses.

"The state has been working on increasing the rigor at preparing students for career and college," Reeves said. "They are just finalizing to make sure everything is research based, rigorous but obtainable. We don't want to hastily put something together and then retract. Starting with our freshman class will give us time."

Though this may seem like an overhaul in graduation requirements, the changes reflect the curriculum changes with Ohio's New Learning Standards in core courses.

These new end-of-course exams are not necessarily better or worse than the OGT, Reeves said.

"I think they are more aligned to the curriculum and more encompassing and fitting all the areas to the courses," he said. "The test aligns competency of the courses. It's a more comprehensive and truer look at the students' proficiency."

Currently, students take the OGT in the spring of their sophomore year. The OGT has five parts, testing students in reading, math, writing, science and social studies. If students fail any part of the OGT, they have chances to take it again to earn a passing score prior to their senior year and scheduled graduation.

With the new requirements, the timeline could be similar. Students will take seven end-of-year exams, but many may be completed during the first two years of high school. By the end of sophomore year, many students could meet some of the necessary graduation requirements.

"Sophomore year lays a great foundation for figuring out courses that you want to take your junior and senior year to address the needs of the students," Reeves said.

Reeves added that the end-of-year exams scores are cumulative. Hypothetically, if each test is scored on a scale of one through five and a passing score per exam is three, then cumulatively a student must score a 21 out of 35 to hit graduation requirements.

Students, in theory, could score below a three on one exam and score a perfect on another, and cumulatively still hit a 21 and meet graduation requirements.

John Charlton, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Education, said the department has yet to finalize some specifications, such as expected timelines for requirements or passing scores for the end-of-year exams.

Though if students do not meet necessary requirements for end-of-year exams, they have two other options.

The Ohio Board of Regents, a state agency that coordinates higher education in Ohio, set remediation-free standards in December 2012. These standards indicate that students meet the parameters for college readiness.

According to the agency's website, students who score a minimum of 18 in English, 21 in reading and 22 in math on the ACT meet that remediation-free status.

Similarly, students who score minimums of 430 in writing, 450 in critical reading and 520 in math on the SAT meet the requirement.

The state also will pay for every junior to take one nationally recognized exam. Charlton did not say how much it would cost to pay for one of these tests for each junior in the state.

The third and final option for a diploma is earning a vocational certificate from a career technical program. Through partnerships with Columbus State Community College, Delaware Area Career Centers and Columbus City Schools and funding from Gov. John Kasich's Straight A Fund, Westerville offers certificates for careers in health care, manufacturing and engineering.

"A great deal, if not all career and technical programs, leads you to industry-recognized credential," Reeves said.

The Ohio Department of Education will work to finalize details during the next four years as these students pursue their high school diplomas. The Westerville district's website provides links to the state department of education website for more information.

"We're excited and we want to make sure as soon as we know details we let our families know the details," Reeves said.

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