It appears students in the South-Western City School District's class of 2019 will be offered the same options for creating a pathway to graduation as were offered to last year's senior class.

Both the Ohio Senate and House of Representatives approved a bill Dec. 6 that will again allow seniors to choose a variety of options as an alternative to the more rigorous graduation requirements that the state adopted in 2014.

With the options again expected to be offered, the district's focus will be to help seniors and their families maneuver their way through the pathway to graduation, said Erik Shuey, the district's executive director of secondary schools.

"That's always our effort, to help make sure as many of our students will be able to graduate as possible," Shuey said. "It's been made more difficult the last few years because our students and families haven't been certain as they enter their senior year exactly what they would or wouldn't be able to do."

The class of 2018 was slated to be the first class required to meet the more rigorous standards. They were expected to complete courses totaling at least 20 credits. Some districts, such as South-Western, require a total of 21 credits.

In addition, a graduating student would have to earn at least 18 out of a possible 35 points on seven end-of-course exams, earn a remediation-free score in math and English on either the ACT or SAT or earn an industry credential to show they were prepared for college or a job.

"Those pathways remain in place and students can still use them to graduate," Shuey said.

Statewide, there was a concern in 2018 that more than 30 percent of seniors were in danger of not meeting the more stringent graduation requirements, he said.

"One of the concerns that was raised was having so much emphasis on the end-of-course tests that were each one test on one given day," Shuey said.

Providing alternative paths to graduation "perhaps helped give a better measurement of student achievement," Shuey said.

Members of this year's senior class will still need to earn 20 course credits and take the end-of-course state exams plus retake any state math or English tests in which they scored less than 3 points.

But seniors will again be able to choose to meet two of nine options as an additional pathway to graduation.

The options are:

* Have at least 93 percent attendance during their senior year, including both excused and unexcused absences.

* Earn at least a 2.5 GPA during their senior year.

* Complee a capstone project.

* Complete 120 hours of work experience or community service during their senior year.

* Earn three credit hours through College Credit Plus.

* Pass an Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate course and earning at least a 3 score on the AP exam or 4 on the IB exam.

* Pass three components of Ohio's job skills assessment.

* Acquire approved job credentials equal to at least three points in Ohio's system.

* Earn the OhioMeansJobs readiness seal.

The bill sent to the governor will provide the same options for the class of 2020 with a couple of changes.

Next year's seniors will need to earn a 2.5 GPA in both junior- and senior-year courses.

The attendance option will be eliminated next year.

That's a move that Rep. Andrew Brenner (R-Powell), chairman of the House Education and Career Readiness Committee, favors.

"Ninety-three percent attendance is not really a very high standard," he said. "It works out to missing about two or three weeks of school and it's an option that could be misused."

State officials are working to create a more-permanent set of graduation requirements, Brenner said.

"We're looking to hopefully get that finalized by the spring," he said.

That would be a help for both students and the school districts they attend, Shuey said.

"It would be nice for our students to be able to start high school as freshmen with a clear understanding of what they need to do in order to graduate," he said.

For districts, it would be easier to adjust their programs to make sure they are providing the assistance their students need to meet the state's graduation requirements, Shuey said.

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