Ohio legislators have made sure seniors for the next two years don’t fail to graduate because of low standardized test scores, but the focus will soon turn toward finding a long-term solution.
The Senate and House on Thursday gave final votes to legislation creating alternative graduation pathways for the classes of 2019 and 2020, sending it to Gov. John Kasich for his signature.
The move addresses a lingering concern that too many seniors are failing to meet the enhanced graduation requirements that were supposed to start with the class of 2018 — scoring at least 18 out of 36 points on end-of-course exams, earn a remediation-free score on a college entrance exam, or earn an industry-recognized credential or a minimum score on a workforce-readiness test.
Concerned that too many students might not meet those standards, legislators agreed last year to add, for one year, additional pathways for graduation, including good attendance, a 2.5 GPA for senior-year grades, a capstone project or working a job.
Problems meeting the standards persisted for the class of 2019, so lawmakers will extend the extra options another year, and then to the class of 2020 with some tweaks, such as the 2.5 GPA being calculated for the student’s junior and senior years, a more rigorous capstone project, and no more attendance option.
The Ohio Department of Education is required to recommend new, long-term graduation standards by April 1.
Sen. Jay Hottinger, R-Newark, said that next spring, it’s imperative that lawmakers craft long-term graduation standards that stop shifting the goal posts on students and teachers. Key to that, he said, is determining what a high school diploma means.
“For me, it means you are reaching basic educational levels through high school. It does not necessarily mean that you are college ready,” Hottinger said. “I’m for high standards and for expecting students to achieve those. But we have to come to the recognition that over the last several years we have consistently and constantly raised the bar for a high school diploma.”
The bill now goes to Gov. John Kasich for his signature.
In other legislative business:
The Senate gave final approval to a bill creating a statewide registry of violent offenders, legislation known as “Sierah’s Law.” The bill was introduced following the 2016 murder of Sierah Joughin of Metamora, who was killed by a man with a prior abduction conviction.
Senate Bill 231 would require those convicted of murder, attempted murder, voluntary manslaughter, kidnapping and abduction to register annually with county sheriffs for at least 10 years. Unlike the statewide sex offender registry, which has been in place for years, the new violent offender database could be searched online only by law enforcement. The public can view the information only by visiting the county sheriff’s office.
The bill now goes to the governor.
On Wednesday, the Senate passed a bill allowing victims of sexual assault to anonymously track the status of their rape kit, under a system that would be developed by the state attorney general. It would require all agencies involved in the rape kit testing process to participate in the tracking program.
“As we continue to help and encourage victims of sexual assault to rebuild their lives, it is imperative we provide them the ability to check the status of the testing of their rape kit quietly and discreetly,” said Rep. Stephanie Kunze, R-Hilliard, sponsor of the bill.
Senate Bill 323 passed 31-0 and now goes to the House.
The House voted 52-31 to approve House Bill 393, which declares brine from oil and gas fracking production a commodity that can be freely sold, including to the public. The salty liquid largely is used to melt ice surfaces such as roads. Environmentalists and some lawmakers object, saying it contains radium levels that could damage Ohioans' health and threaten the environment due to runoff. The bill now advances to the Senate.
Columbus Dispatch reporter Randy Ludlow contributed to this story.