Leg­is­la­ture keeps al­ter­na­tive grad­u­a­tion paths

The Columbus Dispatch - - Front Page - By Jim Siegel Dis­patch Re­porter Randy Ludlow con­trib­uted to this story. [email protected]­patch.com @phront­page

Ohio's leg­is­la­ture has made sure that high school 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 gave fi­nal votes Thurs­day to leg­is­la­tion creat­ing al­ter­na­tive grad­u­a­tion re­quire­ments for the classes of 2019 and 2020, send­ing it to Gov. John Ka­sich for his sig­na­ture. Rep. Mike Duf­fey, R-Wor­thing­ton, cast the lone vote against it.

The move ad­dresses a con­cern that too many se­niors are fail­ing to meet the en­hanced grad­u­a­tion re­quire­ments that were sup­posed to take ef­fect with the class of 2018: scor­ing at least 18 out of 36 points on end-of-course ex­ams, earn­ing a re­me­di­a­tion­free score on a col­lege en­trance exam, or earn­ing an in­dus­try-rec­og­nized cre­den­tial or a min­i­mum score on a work­force-readi­ness test.

Con­cerned that too many stu­dents might not meet those stan­dards, law­mak­ers agreed last year to add, for one year, softer paths for grad­u­a­tion, in­clud­ing good at­ten­dance, a 2.5 GPA for se­nior-year grades, a cap­stone project or hold­ing a job.

Law­mak­ers will ex­tend those ex­tra op­tions to the class of 2019, and then to the class of 2020 with tweaks, such as cal­cu­lat­ing the GPA for the stu­dent’s ju­nior as well as se­nior year, re­quir­ing a more rig­or­ous cap­stone project, and drop­ping the 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 it’s im­per­a­tive that law­mak­ers craft long-term 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.”

In other leg­isla­tive busi­ness:

The Se­nate gave fi­nal ap­proval to a bill creat­ing a statewide registry of vi­o­lent of­fend­ers. The leg­is­la­tion known as “Sierah’s Law” was in­tro­duced fol­low­ing the 2016 mur­der of Sierah Joughin of Me­ta­mora, Ohio, on the Michi­gan line; she was killed by a man with a prior ab­duc­tion con­vic­tion.

Se­nate Bill 231 would re­quire those con­victed of mur­der, at­tempted mur­der, vol­un­tary man­slaugh­ter, kid­nap­ping or 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 could view the in­for­ma­tion only by vis­it­ing a 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 process of test­ing rape kits 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 Sen. Stephanie Kunze, R-Hil­liard, the 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 nat­u­ral-gas frack­ing pro­duc­tion a com­mod­ity that can be freely sold, in­clud­ing to the pub­lic. The salty liq­uid is used pri­mar­ily to melt ice on sur­faces such as roads. En­vi­ron­men­tal­ists and some law­mak­ers ob­ject, say­ing brine con­tains lev­els of ra­dium that could dam­age Ohioans' health and threaten the en­vi­ron­ment be­cause of runoff.

The bill now ad­vances to the Se­nate.

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