Path to graduation changing

In the mid-2000s, the Ohio Graduation Test took over as the standard for determining if high school students were ready to graduate, but beginning with the Class of 2018, the OGTs will become a thing of the past.

A collection of changes will greet freshman this year as the state pushes for higher education standards and better workforce and college preparedness in the classroom.

Educators say the changes, which alter graduation requirements and provide multiple pathways to a diploma, are still a learning curve as educators close in on the last days of summer.

“We have Common Core, but now there’s a bill that might eliminate it, so it’s hard until we can figure out what we’re actually going to be doing,” said Lisa Polk, guidance counselor for Marietta High School.

The changes included the replacements of the OGTs, which test on English, math, social studies, science and writing, with seven end-of-course exams that are taken at the conclusion of a specific subject course, rather than all at once.

“The new standards and courses are more challenging, and we think these will be a better assessment and promote higher achievement,” said Ohio Department of Education spokesman John Charlton. “They’re given at the end of whatever course they’re for…so the material remains fresh in their minds rather than spreading it out.”

The exams include physical science, American history, American government, English I and II, Algebra I and geometry or an integrated math equivalent.

“The other thing we’re doing with that is encouraging schools to use the end-of-course exam provided by the state as the final exam, so that way they don’t have to double-test students,” Charlton said.

The state is currently working with testing companies to develop the seven exams, which will attempt to align with the concept of consistent learning requirements for each grade set forth by Common Core.

“At Warren, we’ve already been working on end-of-course exams that are similar, so we do not feel this transition will be a big deal for us,” said Warren Local Schools curriculum director Angela Dunn. “The only difference is that these tests are coming from the state, and they’re factored into graduation.”

Frontier High School science teacher Laura Hall, who teaches all freshman science courses, said she is looking forward to the replacement.

“The OGT covered not only content from that year, but their eighth and seventh grade classes, so it was hard to pick out which questions were based on my class and which were really my responsibility, so I had to go through and dissect the test,” she said.

Hall said the end-of-course exams will provide much more specific and timely results to teachers because there is one for each specific subject.

“If they’re weak on the electricity questions, then I can concentrate on that next year,” she said. “It will be beneficial to me, and it will be beneficial to our life sciences teacher, too.”

Before, graduation was only based on meeting a minimum score on the OGTs and a list of required course credits. The course credits are still in place with the addition of the exams, but now, the state created three separate “pathways” to a diploma to give students more options.

In addition to the course credits, students must now either earn a passing score on all seven end-of course exams; earn a “remediation-free” score on a nationally recognized college admission exam such as the ACT or SAT; or receive a state-issued or recognized credential in a technical or workforce certification.

“This gives students more options to pursue graduation, and it can also be very motivating to a student who has no desire to go to college,” Charlton said. “Now they don’t have to take college prep courses, but they have something else to motivate them.”

Charlton said the third pathway relates to push for more technical and career-ready education in Ohio.

“We have things like the career class that help with that,” Polk said. “Kids are now getting shadowing experience, they’re getting interest inventories done, and they’re getting more of an idea of what they want to do.”

In addition to new requirements, the state will also now be footing the bill for students to take a college test prep course free of charge, most likely during their junior year, but Charlton said the state is still determining which test it would offer classes for and how much it would cost.