Findlay High School Principal Ryan Imke is praising the state school board for its vote this week to extend the relaxed graduation requirements in place for the class of 2018 for another two years.

“Without a doubt we are excited about the stability,” Imke said, describing his conversations with assistant principals and counselors.

Imke had been concerned that next school year could start without school districts knowing what the graduation requirements would be for the class of 2019. Now, the district can plan for an additional two years.

The class of 2018 is the first class that must take seven end-of-course tests. Students can graduate by earning a total of 18 or more points on those exams, which are scored on a scale of 1 through 5 (“limited” through “advanced”).

Imke’s predecessor, Craig Kupferberg, said last March that about 30 percent of students in the class of 2018 were in danger of not graduating if they had to pass all seven tests.

With low graduation rates predicted statewide, the state school board recommended, and the Legislature approved, a relaxed set of requirements for the class of 2018.

Students who take all seven tests — and, for some subjects, retake them at least once — can graduate without accumulating 18 points on the tests if they meet at least two other conditions, such as:

  • A senior-year attendance rate of 93 percent.
  • A senior-year grade point average of 2.5, including at least four full-year courses.
  • Completing a capstone project during senior year.

In total, students have eight conditions to choose from, including earning credits through College Credit Plus, or getting certain results on Advanced Placement or WorkKeys exams.

The state school board recommended Tuesday, by a 16-1 vote, that those alternative conditions be extended to the classes of 2019 and 2020. Because of the nearly unanimous vote, Imke is confident the Legislature will agree.

“We do still have some concerns in regard to the amount of testing, and the requirements of making students retake some of those tests in order to get into those additional pathways,” Imke said.

There are two options for graduation that do not revolve around the end-of-course tests.

One additional pathway involves earning an industry-recognized credential or combination of credentials. For example, a student could earn a billing coding specialist certification from the American Medical Certification Association. Students going this route also need a score of 13 or better on the WorkKeys assessment, a three-part test on reading, applied mathematics and locating information.

Another option is to earn a “remediation-free” ACT or SAT score — a score that, according to state universities and the Ohio Department of Higher Education, indicates students are ready to succeed in college classes.

If students know they want to take one of those paths, “just having to subject them to more testing, we don’t necessarily agree with,” Imke said.

If a student scores a 1 or a 2 (“limited” or “basic”) on a math or English language arts test, they have to retake the test at least once, even if they plan to pursue one of the other graduation options.

As for a long-term approach to graduation requirements, Imke said “we certainly believe that we need to have accountability,” and the district’s goal is for students to leave as lifelong learners, whether their next step is college, entering the workforce or pursuing some type of license or certification.

“We would continue to advocate for less tests, so maybe reducing the amount of tests from seven that we currently have,” Imke said.

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