Having our say on graduation requirements: We need your help!

by littlemiamisuper1

Dear Little Miami Families,

Every Wednesday, a small committee hand-selected by the Ohio Department of Education gathers in Columbus to determine what to do because nearly a third of Ohio’s Class of 2018 students are at risk of not graduating. The committee was established after teachers, principals, parents, and superintendents around the state loudly voiced concerns about the future of these students.

However, I and several other public school superintendents are concerned that this committee, our legislature, and our Governor are not hearing what so many Ohioans are trying to say: Too many Ohio students are at risk of not receiving a high school diploma, not because schools are failing to educate, but because Ohio has mandated over-testing, and testing the wrong things.

At this point in time, according to ODE about 20% of our 11th grade high school students – who were on track to graduate until the new requirements – are now at risk to not graduate. Our staff is continuing to support these students with added interventions so as to improve their chances to meet these high stakes testing mandates.

Little Miami High School, along with every other public high school in Ohio, is required by the state to administer SEVEN high school end-of-course exams. While we believe strongly in accountability for our students and our teachers, we believe that these exams are not a fair and accurate measurement of students’ knowledge and skills. These exams discount the semester length learning experiences and the instructional assessment expertise of our teachers.

We have heard from our business community that students need to be able to think critically, collaborate, and communicate effectively. These tests do not measure the practical application of these skills. We also believe students are over-tested and that the graduation point system is fatally flawed. Eighteen graduation points are required in order to receive a diploma, however in certain situations, earning two points per exam is considered passing. Seven times two does not equal 18.

We believe that there should be different paths for students to show attainment of career skills and talents commensurate with graduation requirements. Not all students go to college. Some enlist in the military, others acquire technical expertise to be able to go to work in an industry with a career credential and others continue preparing for a career path by attending college. Use of the ACT, a nationally normed test used to benchmark college readiness, or use industry-accredited professional certification exams for students interested in vocational trades could be pathway options available to our students. However, neither of these options should be required for graduation. Students are caught in the changing assessments that have morphed three times in three years.

Ohio needs to follow the federal requirements – and give back control to local boards of education.

Under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), states are required to test students annually in math and reading in grades 3 through 8 and once in high school. Science must be assessed at least once in grades three through five, grades six through nine, and once in grades 10 through 12. We would ask the state to simply follow these federal guidelines.

Over the last 20 years, the state has tightened its grip on public school districts. That trend accelerated when state leaders instituted mandatory end-of-course exams for graduation. The pendulum has swung to the point where local districts have very little say in a student’s education. We can remain hopeful that this latest committee from ODE will “hear” the concerns of its constituency of parents, community stakeholders, and educators however, if past history is any indicator, they have already determine the “correct” answer and are just seeking to fill the square to say they “heard” our concerns.

I would urge you to send an email to our state Board of Education and state Superintendent Paolo DeMaria voicing your concerns about Ohio’s graduation requirements. A template is provided below.

CALL TO ACTION:  Use the template below to send an email to:

Subject: Fix Ohio’s Graduation Crisis

Dear NAME,

I am writing you to voice my concern about the over-testing of students and the lack of local control in K-12 education. The job of educating our children should be up to the local Boards of Education, not the State. I urge you to bring back local control of our schools. I also ask you to fix the current testing system.

Changing the assessment system three times in three years is hurting our students and making them less competitive with students from surrounding states. It is time the state follow the federal guidelines and allow the schools to use the ACT test or industry accredited professional certification exams to assess college and career readiness. I ask you to take a hard look at this system and do what is right for all students across Ohio.

Sincerely,

Your Name
Your ADDRESS
Your City, Zip Code

If your student is at risk of not graduating due to the state’s new graduation requirements, please consider sending this email as well:

Dear NAME,

My child has followed all the rules. However, he is now at risk of not walking across the stage and getting his diploma because the State is once again changing the assessment system and the requirements to graduate.  [Insert any information about your child that you want them to know.]

It is wrong to damage my child’s future due to a failed accountability experiment. Enough is enough. I expect you to remedy this situation, and let teachers get back to teaching and our children get back to learning.

Your Name
Your ADDRESS
Your City, Zip Code

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