New graduation requirements go into effect this month

After several years of discussion, new graduation requirements are coming. In response to a call for more options, the new graduation standards, which will become effective in mid-October, go beyond the usual tests and offer combinations of criteria that students can satisfy to demonstrate their qualifications to graduate high school.

For insight on the new requirements, we contacted Sarah Wilson at the Ohio Department of Education:

Q: Tell us about your job at the Ohio Department of Education and your role in working with high school graduation requirements.

A: I am leading efforts at the Ohio Department of Education to implement the state’s recently adopted high school graduation requirements. I have been with the department for three years, during which my work has primarily focused on Ohio’s high school graduation requirements.

There are many aspects of the work that I do as it relates to graduation requirements, but I think, most simply put, I serve as a liaison between the department and the education community to support districts and schools in understanding the high school graduation requirements that are outlined in state law.

I work collaboratively across the different offices at the department and with Ohio’s education and business-based stakeholders to develop guidance, tools and resources that are helpful to Ohio’s districts and schools related to Ohio’s requirements for graduation. My goal is to ensure successful implementation of Ohio’s high school graduation requirements.

Q: Give us an overview of the new standards, and how they will impact Ohio’s students. 

A: Recent state law included significant changes to Ohio’s graduation requirements that expanded options for students to demonstrate what they know and can do. The new requirements include three key components – completing coursework, demonstrating competency and demonstrating readiness.

As always, students will complete their required courses and take the required state tests. Students will demonstrate competency in the foundational areas of English language arts and mathematics or through alternative options that include College Credit Plus, career-focused activities or military enlistment.

Students will also demonstrate readiness for their post-high school path by earning two diploma seals that allow them to demonstrate important foundational and well-rounded academic and technical knowledge, professional skills, social and emotional competencies, and leadership and reasoning skills. The intent is to make the high school experience more relevant, meaningful and engaging for students.

Q: Why was there a need for new requirements? 

grad requirements each child thumbnailA: Guided by Each Child, Our Future, the state’s five-year strategic plan for education, Ohio is on a mission to ensure that high school inspires students to identify paths to future success, and that students have multiple ways to demonstrate the knowledge, skills and dispositions necessary for high school graduation and beyond.

Whether a graduate chooses to enter the workforce, pursue post-secondary education, enlist in the military or engage in a meaningful, self-sustaining vocation, Ohio’s high school graduates will be challenged, prepared and empowered for their lives after high school.

The education community collectively called for a broader set of options that go beyond traditional state tests and enable students to show readiness for their next steps after high school – whatever those next steps might be.

Q: Who gave input on these new requirements, and how long did it take to come up with standards that could be agreed upon?  

A: Ohio has been focused on graduation requirements at the state level for several years. The newly adopted graduation requirements are a culmination of discussions that have been taking place during the past three years.

There were a number of proposals on the table, and, ultimately, the new requirements that were adopted by the General Assembly reflect a set of recommendations made by a coalition of education and business stakeholders.

Q: Describe the most recent requirements, when they were enacted and if they were successful. Why or why not? 

A: The most recent set of permanent graduation requirements, often referred to as the “three pathways,” will continue to be available through the class of 2022. Many students have been successful in satisfying these requirements, but there was a general feeling across the state that we could offer students more personalized options that were less reliant on standardized testing and options that include other important sets of skills and knowledge, particularly professional skills, that are necessary for success after high school.

The temporary graduation options for the class of 2018 (and later the classes of 2019 and 2020) were the state’s first attempt at incorporating non-test-based options into the graduation requirements. Ultimately, many of those temporary options were incorporated into the permanent requirements in some way, and students have a variety of ways to demonstrate their readiness to move beyond high school.

Q: What are the biggest changes from the most recent requirements to the new requirements? How will the new standards be a better reflection of a student’s past achievement and future readiness? 

A: As I’ve noted, the biggest change from the old requirements to the new are the many options available to students and the reduction in the reliance of state testing as the sole way of earning a diploma.

Specifically, there are now numerous combinations of criteria students can satisfy to demonstrate competency and readiness. Students have a menu of diploma seals that can be earned through the demonstration of academic, technical and professional skills.

Q: When will the new standards go into effect? 

A: The new graduation standards will be effective in mid-October. They will be available to students in the classes of 2018-2022 and required for students in the class of 2023 and beyond.

Q: How will the new standards improve the state’s ability to meet workforce requirements? 

A: The new requirements honor career-infused and experiential-based learning and include relevant options for students to earn industry-recognized credentials, participate in work-based learning experiences and build professional skills and knowledge that are essential for success in the workplace, college and the military.

Ultimately, Ohio’s graduation requirements will position students for choice-filled lives.


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