Legislature keeps alternative graduation paths
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.