Lawmakers’ decision to give high school students additional ways to earn a diploma prevented the drop in Ohio’s graduation rate this year that many had feared.
The graduation rate for the class of 2018 was 85 percent, about 1 percent higher than the previous year, according to data released Tuesday by the state Department of Education.
At least 10 percent of 2018′s graduates, and possibly as many as 18 percent, or nearly 25,000 students, used one of the additional ways to meet the requirements for a diploma.
“The overall rate is what I expected to see, and it shows the options were necessary,” said Stephanie Dodd, a member of the state Board of Education, which had recommended that new graduation requirements be temporarily expanded.
“I think we set the three original pathways at a college-ready level, and I think we need to continue lookin Stephanie Dodd g into that and consider adjusting those. I think that’s why the options are so important that we give students flexibility.”
At the state board’s urging, the legislature last week approved extending alternative graduation requirements for the classes of 2019 and 2020.
The move addressed growing concerns among Ohio educators at the local level that too many seniors were failing to meet new standards that were supposed to take effect with the class of 2018. Those new standards were: scoring at least 18 out of a possible 36 on end-of-course exams; earning a remediation-free score on a college-entrance exam; or earning an industry-recognized credential or a minimum score on a workforce-readiness test.
According to data reported to the Department of Education, two-thirds of 2018 graduates met one or more of those requirements. Sixty-five percent of students met the end-of-course-exams option, while only 27 percent earned a remediation-free score on the ACT or SAT. Some achieved both marks.
Less than 1 percent obtained an industry credential.
Two sets of alternative options added by the legislature were: good attendance, a 2.5 GPA for senior grades, or a capstone project; or scoring “proficient” or better on career-technical exams, or work experience. Most students who relied on the alternatives — nearly 12,000 seniors — met one of the first set of options, while about 2,000 used the second set of options.
No option was indicated for an additional 11,000 students who graduated.
Next year, legislators say, they will consider a permanent fix based on new graduation requirements recommended ACT or SATby the 19-member state school board.
The state implemented the tougher requirements five years ago in response to a high number of graduates needing remedial coursework upon entering college; about 40 percent of students entering public colleges and universities in Ohio needed such work.
The policy debate more recently has shifted to concerns about too much student testing and providing options to students who don’t test well or aren’t going to college.
Education department data for the class of 2018 showed that suburban school districts with low poverty rates had the highest average graduation rate: 96 percent. Urban districts with high poverty rates had the lowest: 79 percent.