Panicked or Purposeful: How are you planning for Ohio’s new graduation requirements?

As a former high school principal of both a traditional high school (Maysville – Go Panthers!) and a dropout recovery high school (Foxfire ROCKS), my blood pressure skyrockets over changing graduation requirements. When wearing those hats, I too experienced sleepless nights because my mind refused to stop worrying about how the changes would affect MY kids.  Regularly, I now can hear my friends and colleagues shouting “For crying out loud! The law changed in July. It’s November – I can’t keep waiting for guidance. I have to prepare my kids and staff. My counselors already started conversations about next year’s master schedule!” (Well, this is the G-rated version, anyway.)

… And so begins the panicked planning.  

Following my conversations with Ohio Department of Education staff members and my attendance at the state’s High School Graduation Requirement and High School Redesign Task Force, I can’t stress enough the need for high school and district leaders to STOP * BREATHE * PURPOSEFULLY PLAN.   

The Department is working at a furious pace to provide guidance for these changes.  But it can’t be instantaneous. Each new requirement affects not only the life of every young person in Ohio, but also many other state policies such as: assessment requirements, teacher evaluation, local report cards, and services for English learners and students with disabilities. In order to ensure the guidance we receive is accurate – the first time – it must be vetted through multiple departments, legal staff, and many stakeholders. Ultimately, resulting policy changes will have to be approved by the State Board of Education.

While I understand the need for information and the urge to start planning, I caution school and district leaders about making big decisions based on assumptions.  We just don’t have all the information we need. Panicked planning risks limited resources – time, energy, funding, partner engagement – if assumptions turn out to be wrong. It could also lead to communications nightmares.

Instead, EnvisionEdPlus recommends some strategies for purposeful planning that can help you be more strategic with the information available now. 

  1. Attend MORE than one roll-out session offered by your ESC or other regional partners. 
    • The new requirements are complex and will require you to think differently about how you prepare students for their next step in life. 
    • Dozens of administrators have told us that they didn’t understand the significant nuances of the requirements immediately. It wasn’t until they reviewed the requirements multiple times, that they fully comprehended changes. 
  2. Understand YOUR Data to determine the impact of the new requirements.  
    • What percentage of our students are likely to demonstrate ELA and math competence by just taking their EOC once? Twice? 
    • What percentage of our students are likely to enlist in the US armed forces? 
    • What percentage of our students are NOT likely to demonstrate competence in grade 9-10 on EOCs, but might succeed in CCP coursework in 11-12th grades? 
    • What percentage of our students could demonstrate career readiness through a CTE pathway? 
    • What the heck is a registered apprenticeship? A pre-apprenticeship? Is this something we should be doing? 
    • What industry credentials do we already offer?  What are the in-demand job needs of our region? Are there aligned industry credentials that might be beneficial for our students?  How can we partner with industry to create opportunities? 
  3. Watch for Guidance through newsletters and social media.
  4. Collaborate with others in your region to ‘unpack’ the requirements and develop purposeful plans. 
    • ODE’s guidance on locally defined diploma seals is coming. When it arrives, start collaborative planning with your ESC, Business Advisory Council or another organization. 
    • Some local seals that have been already adopted by local boards of education might not be in line with legislative intent.  Local seals should be competency-based and honor the experiences of students in your school and local community. 
    • Attend an Operation Graduation 2.0 Design Lab to co-plan with districts across the region. We are partnering with ESCs across the state so  teams can learn from schools that are already doing aligned work – and avoid their pitfalls. Meet experts in the field – industry partners, military recruiters, apprenticeship designers and others who can inform your plans. Events will begin in December as ODE rolls out guidance and will continue throughout the spring. 
    • Schedule a 2-3 day design institute for your school or district. EnvisionEdPlus will facilitate purposeful planning to guide your district (or school) through planning steps so you are ready to successfully roll out the new requirements by fall 2020.  

Just remember, to avoid panicked planning you need to

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