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Stricter graduation requirements on the way
The Columbus City School district board of education ushered in the new year ready to tackle the process of implementing stricter graduation requirements.
At its first meeting of the year, held Jan. 6, board members received a refresher course by Pete Maneff, executive director of curriculum leadership and development in the district, on Ohio Senate Bill 311, also referred to as the Ohio Core.
The Ohio Core graduation requirements will begin with the graduating class of 2014, students who are now in the seventh grade.
“I can’t overstate the effect globalization is having on us and our students,” Maneff said. “It compels us to provide 21st century skills so our students can compete in a global marketplace.”
Studies show that 31 industrialized countries outperform United States students in math and 16 industrialized countries outperform U.S. Students in science. Only 8 percent of 15-year-old students in the U.S. are taking physics.
“Globally, the best prepared will have access to the best jobs and the best universities,” Maneff said. “There is a movement to respond to the performance gap. States are changing graduation requirements and aligning state standards. Ohio is among 46 states to make changes in graduation requirements.”
According to Maneff, Ohio’s response to globalization is to establish rigorous graduation requirements across the board and to prepare graduates to be successful in work or college. The state’s legislators also want to strengthen the path between graduation and entrance into college, and reduce set-backs at the college level.
In order to receive acceptance from 10 out of the 13 public four-year universities in the state, graduates must meet the Ohio Core requirements. Those students who do not meet the Ohio Core requirements can still attend community colleges and technical colleges as well as Shawnee State University and Youngstown State University.
The Ohio Core would require students to have four credits in English and math, with one credit of math being at least Algebra II or its equivalent. Students must also take one-half credit of American history and American government each, as well as two other credits in social studies including economic and financial literacy. In science, students must take three credits to graduate, including laboratory experience with inquiry-based instruction, one credit of physical sciences, one credit of biology and one credit from an advanced science such as chemistry, physics, biology, or earth or space science. One-half credit of health and physical education each is required, along with five credits of electives, including foreign language, fine arts, business, career-technical education, family and consumer sciences, technology, and agricultural education.
Comparing the district to the new Ohio Core requirements, the district is already ahead by two credits, for a total of 22 credits, compared to the Ohio Core’s 20 credits.
The district has much work ahead before implementing the new requirements, Maneff said, as there are several issues to consider. First, through a provision of the Ohio Core, students could decide not to take foreign language classes as they are electives. However, most colleges and universities require at least two years of foreign language for acceptance. Students may also choose to substitute their physical education credit for two years of participation in a school sport, marching band or cheerleading.
Preparing for the rigorous graduation requirements when they are finally implemented will not just start at the high school level, said Superintendent Gene Harris.
“Programming begins at kindergarten to get students ready for high school level graduation requirements,” she said. “We will continue to reflect that in the K-12 program.”
Though the district “accepts the challenges,” Harris said, they will not come without struggle.
“Some things we will have to wrestle with is the foreign language program,” Harris said. “And Pete talked about globalization and its importance, which includes making sure there is financial literacy, demographic shifts and world leadership and how to make that work. We are trying to be all things to all people. But we know how important having a variety of classes is to our students.”
Harris and board members don’t anticipate making any decisions anytime soon, though general discussion will take place possibly as early as the next regularly scheduled board meeting on Jan. 20.
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