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Ohio Board of Education Recommends Extending Alternative Graduation Pathways

graduating students
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The Ohio classes of 2019 and 2020 could be allowed the same alternative options for earning a high school diploma as this year’s seniors.

The Ohio Board of Education voted 16-1 Tuesday to allow students to graduate by pursuing alternative pathways, like completing a senior project or obtaining an industry credential.

Last year, members of the Ohio General Assembly amended the requirements for the Class of 2018 to include the additional options. The change came after the state Department of Education found nearly a third of seniors were not on track to meet the more rigorous standards, largely reliant on passing end-of-course exams. The class was the first to fall under those new requirements.

Dr. Kara Morgan of Dublin cast the only nay vote against the extension because she worried the amended requirements allow students to graduate based on nonacademic factors.

“It felt like it was starting to lay out some options for trying to help students graduate that could have maybe graduated with the end of course exams, but if that wasn’t required, then they might not make the effort to gain that knowledge and skills,” she said.

The vote is a recommendation for lawmakers, who would have to pass legislation for it to take effect.

In the House, Rep. Andrew Brenner, who is a nonvoting member of the school board, said Tuesday his chamber won’t adhere to the board’s recommendation and is already drafting legislation for a permanent fix to the graduation requirements.

Brenner’s Senate counterpart Peggy Lehner said she prefers to hear from the board.

“[The Senate doesn’t] have any plans to start it on our own,” Lehner said of proposals to find a long-term fix as the House intends.

“We’ll certainly be interested in what the House comes up with,” she said. “I don’t think there’s necessarily any guarantee that we would adopt their recommendation over what would come from the school board.”

Brenner did not share details of the anticipated bill because the draft is not complete, but he said to expect it “soon.”

Ashton Marra covers the Capitol for West Virginia Public Radio and can be heard weekdays on West Virginia Morning, the station’s daily radio news program. Ashton can also be heard Sunday evenings as she brings you state headlines during NPR’s weekend edition of All Things Considered. She joined the news team in October of 2012.