COLUMBUS -- Incoming high school freshmen will have to pass a series of end-of-course examinations, score high enough on college entrance exams or gain specified job certifications in order to graduate, under law changes finalized by the legislature this week.
House Bill 487, the mid-biennium budget review legislation that included provisions related to primary and secondary education, passed the Ohio House and Senate on split votes Wednesday and awaits Gov. John Kasich signature.
A major provision relates to testing requirements for earning high school diplomas. The bill replaces the Ohio Graduation Test for freshmen entering high school later this year with end-of-course exams in language arts, science, algebra, geometry, American history and government. The legislation also requires schools to offer college admission tests to all high school juniors.
Sen. Peggy Lehner, R-Kettering, called the existing Ohio Graduation Test a "very low-level test. People have said that it really represented about an eighth-grade level of knowledge, and that was the requirement you needed to get a diploma."
HB 487, Lehner said, creates three separate pathways for graduation: pass seven end-of-course exams, score high enough on certain sections of a national college admission exam (either the SAT or ACT, to be selected by state education officials) or complete a work force diploma, via a passing score on a jobs skills assessment and a certification or license for a specific vocation.
"We believe with these three different pathways, we have created enough flexibility in the system that it will recognize the strengths and interests of different types of students and will offer a very sound education ....," Lehner said.
Among other provisions, HB 487 changes the name of the Post-Secondary Enrollment Options program to the College Credit Plus program and makes other changes to the program that allows high school students to earn college credit.
The bill also generally requires schools to offer career-technical education to students beginning in seventh grade, provide increased intervention for students at-risk of dropping out and establish advisory groups to allow parents to review textbooks, reading lists and other instructional materials.
Incoming freshmen will be required to take four units of math courses instead of three, and required science classes will have to include "inquiry-based laboratory experience that engages students in asking valid scientific questions and gathering and analyzing information," according to an analysis by the state's Legislative Service Commission.
The votes on the bill in the House and Senate were split, with many Democrats in opposition.
"We needed more time to get things right... the process needed more details ironed out and a full vetting process for success...," said Rep. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo). "Schools have a great number of new requirements to implement in short order ...."