Recommendations to Enhance Ohio’s Graduation Pathways

Below are recommendations I provided to fix and enhance Ohio’s graduation pathway system given the current issues faced by the Class of 2018 and beyond.  These are aligned with policy proposals from the Greater Cincinnati School Advocacy Network as well as a larger statewide coalition of Superintendents under the leadership of Dr. Jim Lloyd from Olmsted Falls.


Members of the State Board of Education:

As a proponent for high standards and increased pathway options for Ohio’s students to qualify for graduation, I support the general direction of the State Board of Education, the Legislature, and the Governor as we all work to ensure Ohio’s students graduate with the tools necessary to be competitive in a rapidly changing economy.

However, the current system, as enacted, is partially based on brand new tests and is weighted in such a manner that students who simply seek a high school diploma with a goal of entering the workforce are at a disadvantage. Issues in need of correction include:
  1. The immediate assigning of high stakes graduation points via an immature assessment system that has changed twice in the past two years.

  2. A troubled graduation point system that has been sold to the public in one manner but has under-advertised subscores which are graduation barriers.

  3. A lack of options for students who are not seeking an industry credential or a college education, but simply wish to enter the workforce upon graduation.

To address the issue of brand new, unproven, and technologically challenged assessments (in the case of PARCC) being used to assign high stakes graduation points to students, along with the disconnect between the public’s understanding of needing 18 points to graduate and the reality that there are required subscore components, I recommend:

  • Eliminating the subscore rule for quality points (the expectation that students earn at least 4 points in English, 4 points in math, and 6 points across the science and social studies tests) and simply requiring students to earn 18 straight quality points.


  • Keep the subscore rule, but reduce the number of quality points necessary to graduate to 14, with a one (1) point per year escalator back to 18 quality points by the class of 2022.

To address the lack of pathway options for career oriented students, I am recommending the following cut score only options as pathways to graduation:

  • Determine a high school graduation benchmark composite score on the ACT that is appropriate for all students as a minimum high school graduation expectation, but is lower that the remedial free expectation across three tests, which is only appropriate for college bound students.  For example, students can qualify to graduate by earning a composite score of 16 on the ACT, which could be escalated in subsequent years as appropriate (ex. 17 beginning with the Class of 2020 and 18 with the Class of 2022).


  • Allow the WorkKeys to be used as a standalone test option to qualify for graduation, with a minimum score of 14 necessary to qualify for a diploma.

The current industry credential option, while positive in theory, is actually the most difficult to achieve, as it cannot be completely qualified for in many cases until the end of the senior year, and it requires:

  • passing all industry credential aligned courses

  • passing the industry credential exams

  • earning a passing score on the WorkKeys exam

Furthermore, as there is uneven access to vocational educational options across the state, this pathway is more difficult for some than others.

In talking with many employers, having employees who can pass a drug screen, are dependable, and have the foundational knowledge to be trainable are all traits that are sought.  These employers are willing to provide on the job training for the right candidates, and a qualifying score on the WorkKeys assessment itself can be a potential standalone option for many of Ohio’s students.

Finally, I would urge you to consider additional pathways beyond standardized test scores that could be utilized to qualify for graduation.  In a world of work that values inspired ideas, collaboration, innovative thinking, and creative solutions to complex problems, a rigorous portfolio pathway with authentic demonstrations of student work is a necessary option that should garner serious consideration.  For information on this topic, I recommend reviewing the work from Ohio’s Performance Assessment Pilot Project as well as the Yellow Springs Schools Project Based Learning Initiative.

Thank you for taking the time to consider these recommendations, and for your service to the State of Ohio.