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New Graduation Requirements Approved with Funding Opportunities To Support Alignment

When Governor DeWine signed HB 166, the state’s budget biennial budget, it had implications for high school graduation well beyond 2020 and 2021.  Ohio’s new graduation requirements, officially beginning with the Class of 2023 (incoming Freshman this fall) are the culmination of years of input through public testimony, think tanks and task forces, but are significantly different from the proposal recently put forward by the State Board of Education. 

The Ohio Department of Education’s legal team is currently working with the legislature to ensure a clear understanding of the new policy prior to sharing information with districts. Districts can expect the Department to release its first communication on the new requirements in early August via the regular state communication mechanisms such as EdConnections, state distribution lists and the ODE website. 

In the meantime, here is what we learned at the Graduation Requirements and High School Redesign Task Force meeting last week. 

Most significant changes:

  • The ‘point system’ on state assessments ends;
  • The Algebra and ELA II End of Course (EOC) assessments will be the only “high stakes” high school tests;
  • The ELA I EOC will be eliminated starting with the Class of 2023, but the test will still be administered for any students in the Classes of 2020, 2021 and 2022 who have not yet passed it;
  • The Geometry EOC will be eliminated starting with the Class of 2021 (pending approval of the U.S. Department of Education);
  • The social studies and science EOCs (American History, American Government, Biology) will still be administered, but they will have a new purpose; 
  • The Classes of 2021 and 2022 will be able to qualify for graduation under previous requirements or the new requirements, but not under the special options (such as capstone completion) afforded to the Class of 2020; and
  • All prospective graduates under the new requirements must earn “Diploma Seals,” including one state established seal and one seal established by local boards of education. 

Under the new requirements, students must meet three criteria. Although there are several options embedded in the criteria, all students must meet all three criteria; these are not three alternative pathways.

CRITERIA 1: Students meet the local diploma requirements regarding course completion and credits earned. There is no change here.

CRITERIA 2: Students Demonstrate “Competency” in English and Math.

Students may demonstrate competency by passing the ELA II and Algebra end-of-course exams. The competency threshold is to be defined by the Ohio Department of Education. Students who do not demonstrate competency the first time they take each test must be provided intervention/remediation support and then will be provided ONE opportunity to retake the test(s). If Compentency is not demonstrated in one (or both) areas, then students may use one of three alternate pathways: 

  • Military Enlistment – letter of enlistment to any branch of the military;
  • College Credit Plus (CCP)  – successfully complete a CCP course in the same subject; OR
  • Career Readiness –  described below.

The Career Readiness pathway requires one “foundational” and one “supporting” element. To demonstrate Foundational Career Readiness, students may score proficient or higher on three state career tech assessments (sometimes known as Webex exams) in a single career tech pathway; obtain an industry credential; complete a pre-apprenticeship program; OR be accepted into a post-high school apprenticeship program. To demonstrate Supporting Career Readiness, students may complete 250 hours of work-based learning with positive evaluations; obtain an OhioMeansJobs Readiness Seal; OR attain a workforce readiness score on the WorkKeys assessment. 

Schools that have used Ohio’s Expanding Opportunities for Each Child grants (or other similar funding) to create career pathways might be poised to provide several of these options. Others should begin planning with business and community partners as soon as possible, because each of these options takes time and persistence to get underway.

CRITERIA 3: Earn TWO Diploma Seals (One State and One Local)

State Seal Options

  • Earn OhioMeansJobs Readiness Seal;
  • Bi-literacy Seal (demonstrate competency in English and one other language);
  • College Readiness Seal (remediation free score on ACT or SAT);
  • Honors Diploma Seal (earn any one of Ohio’s Honor’s Diploma Seals);
  • Science Seal (proficient or higher on Biology EOC or CCP science credit with a score of B or higher, or pass AP or IB science at proficient or higher level);
  • Citizenship Seal (proficient or higher on American History and American Government EOC or CCP science credit with a score of B or higher, or pass AP or IB science at proficient or higher level);
  • Military Seal – successful participation in a JROTC program or military enlistment;
  • Technology Seal – CCP course in technology, AP/IB course in technology or successful completion of state designed technology course (ODE will need to design course); OR
  • Industry Credential Seal – earn an industry recognized credential (does not state how many points, but we believe it will require 12 points) for an in-demand job in the state or region. 

Local Seal Options

  • Community Service Seal – district defined and designed seal for completion of a community service project;
  • Student Engagement Seal – district defined and designed seal for participation in extracurricular activities; OR
  • Fine Arts Seal – district defined and designed for demonstration of a skill (by local evaluation) in fine or performing arts.

*Some state seals will require ODE to create guidance or for ODE legal office to get some clarification. 

*Local Seals will be completely up to district policy. ODE will provide guidance and materials such as model seals or best practices. 

Districts and schools will likely have to give some thought to the community service seal, in particular, and decide how to foster these opportunities, because all prospective graduates will have to earn one of the local seals. It seems likely that every high school will have groups of at-risk students who are not engaged in athletics, clubs or arts and aren’t likely to take on community service projects without coordination and support. This requirement could be a great motivation to get kids involved in after-school and community programs that support youth development and academic success because so many include community service activities.

What about the Classes of 2021 and 2022? 

Students in these graduating classes can meet their diploma requirements through either the current legislative requirements or the new requirements.

The current graduation requirements offer three options. Students must meet local criteria for course credit attainment and one of the following three criteria.

  1. Ohio’s State Tests – Earn 18 out of 35 points on seven end-of-course state tests. You can earn up to five points on each test. You need a minimum of four points in math, four points in English language arts and six points across science and social studies.
  2. Industry-recognized credential and score on workforce readiness test – Earn an industry-recognized credential or a group of credentials totaling 12 points and earn the required score on the WorkKeys test. Ohio pays for you to take the test one time. Some districts offer the Senior Only Program through which you can earn credentials in one school year.
  3. College and career readiness tests – Earn remediation-free scores* in math and English language arts on the ACT or SAT. Your district chooses either the ACT or SAT. You will take a one-time statewide spring test in grade 11 for free. *Ohio’s university presidents set these scores, which are subject to change.

*Note: The Classes of 2018 – 2020 had very specific legislative ‘alternate options’ if one of the above pathways was not achievable.  Those alternate options were exclusively legislated for those particular classes. Therefore, options such as capstone completion are NOT options for the Classes of 2021 or 2022. 

NEW District Policy – Students at-risk to not earn diploma (required by June 30, 2020)

Schools and districts will be required to develop local criteria and procedures for identifying students are at-risk for not graduating on-time. They will be required to communicate with the families of at-risk students, to develop personalized graduation plans for each at-risk student, and to provide extra support to at-risk students. Additional support may include services like mentoring, tutoring, HS credit through demonstrations of subject area competency, adjusted curriculum options, career technical programs, mental health services, physical health care services, and family engagement and support services.

What resources and supports are available to assist districts as they prepare for the new graduation requirements?

There are several continuing and new state budget line items that schools and districts could leverage to design or scale programming to help students meet the new requirements.

Student Wellness and Success. ($275 million in FY 2020 and $400 million in FY 2021) 

These funds will be allocated by formula, but schools and districts must submit annual plans and final reports on how funds will be used and they must develop their plans with a community partner. The funds may be used for mental health services; services for homeless youth; services for child welfare involved youth; community liaisons; physical health care services; mentoring programs; family engagement and support services; City Connects programming; professional development regarding the provision of trauma informed care; professional development regarding cultural competence; services for child nutrition and physical health, fitness, and wellness; and student services provided prior to or after the regularly scheduled school day or any time school is not in session. We recommend checking out these resources from the Ohio Afterschool Network for assistance.

ESC Grants for Prevention.  $1,000,000 in each fiscal year to support professional development grants to educational service centers to train educators and related personnel in models of prevention of risky or harmful behaviors.

College Credit Plus Credentialing Grants.  $3,000,000 in FY 2020 for grants to support graduate coursework for high school teachers to receive credentialing to teach College Credit Plus courses in a high school setting. 

Industry Recognized Credentials and Journeyman Certification Supports. Up to $8,000,000 in each fiscal year to support payments to public schools whose students earn an industry-recognized credential or receive a journeyman certification. Requires the educating entity to pay for the credential (and claim reimbursement) and to inform students in CTE courses that lead to an industry-recognized credential about the opportunity to earn the credentials.

Innovative Workforce Incentive Program (IWIP). Up to $12,500,000 in each fiscal year to pay public schools $1,250 for each qualifying credential earned by a student attending the school. 

Funds for Establishing Credential Programs.  Up to $4,500,000 in each fiscal year for public schools to establish credentialing programs that qualify for IWIP. Requires ODE to prioritize senior-only credentialing programs in schools that currently do not operate such programs

Tech Prep funding. Up to $2,686,474 in competitive expansion grants to the tech prep consortia. 

School Climate Grants. Continues this year’s school climate grants that provide competitive grants to eligible city, local, exempted village school districts, and community schools to implement positive behavior intervention and supports frameworks, evidence- or research-based social and emotional learning initiatives, or both, in school buildings serving any of grades K-3. 

School Safety Training Grants. Continues FY19 program from Ohio Attorney General’s office make grants for school safety and school climate programs and training.  Permits grants to be used for (1) school resource officer certification training, (2) any type of active shooter and school safety training or equipment, (3) all grade level type educational resources, (4) training to identify and assist students with mental health issues, (5) school supplies or equipment related to school safety or for implementing the school’s safety plan, and (6) any other training related to school safety. Districts must work with police or sheriff’s office to develop programs and training. 

As always, EnvisionEdPlus is here to help. Let us know if you would like more information or support in accessing any of these funding opportunities.