SPRINGFIELD TWP.  Ohio students of the class of 2019 were in the process of buying caps and gowns, working hard for great grades to prepare for the next step in their futures but, due to a stumbling block in Columbus, they feared that many of their classmates would not graduate.

Some 50,000 students were at risk of not graduating due to what the Department of Education stated was the overreliance of standardized testing. The good news was announced Dec. 6 that House Bill (HB) 491 passed relieving the minds of those students and educators and parents around the state.

State Representative District 35, Tavia Galonski, first introduced House Bill 630 in May. The bill was initiated to extend the alternative pathways instated for last year’s seniors for the class of 2019. HB 491 was approved with just a couple of changes to Galonski’s bill.

The pathways allow for a variety of paths a high school senior could complete to graduate since the Ohio Graduation Test (OGT) has been discontinued. Those students entering high school on or after July 1, 2004, and before July 1, 2014, which included the graduating classes from 2004 to 2017 were still required to pass the OGT to graduate.

The class of 2018 was the first to graduate through the use of the alternative pathways. The passing of the bill is a huge relief to many local students. Students of Theresa Brugler’s marketing class at Springfield High School used their marketing skills to let the public know of the risk for seniors. Springfield Guidance Counselor Melinda Weakland said out of 180 seniors, 80 were at risk of not graduating before the bill was passed.

The marketing students presented literature to parents and media to make everyone aware of the danger for so many students. Brugler’s student, Audrey Croston, explained the dangers of having thousands of Ohio students out of school without diplomas and knowing what to do with their lives.

“You can’t get a career because you can’t go to college. There will be higher rates in drugs and crime because these kids do not have jobs or are not in school,” Croston said.

Croston’s classmate, Cheyanne McWilliams, said they were not alone as schools across Ohio were connecting with each other trying to get attention to the bill. She pointed out that one situation the seniors were in was that one of the requirements to qualify for graduation was to get a 22 on the ACT (America College Testing) test. She looked at her fellow students and pointed out that one had straight As and got a 20 on the ACT and another had As and Bs and got an 18. An 18, in most cases, is what is needed to get into a college. A 22 was unobtainable for a large number of good students. 

Before the bill passed, Brugler said if last year’s pathways were still valid all of her students would be graduating. Instead, 9 in a class of 17 were in danger of not graduating.

“It is not because they don’t do the work. These students come to class each day, some have jobs and the majority carry a B average or above,” she said.

The fear was real as it affected education in Ohio in many ways. Many of these students that were at risk of not graduating had already been accepted into college and they were accepted based on all of their credentials.

“The colleges seem to think they are doing fine,” said Galonski.

Without a diploma they could not go to college. Local universities and colleges would have also been greatly affected. Galonski said in speaking with the local universities, officials said they plan ahead for enrollment and if students did not graduate that would have greatly affected all high learning institutions.

Weakland said the options they had last year were pretty awesome and that Springfield Schools graduated every single student through appropriate pathways.

“The only kids that didn’t graduate, did not do so because of their credits, not because of this,” she said.

Summer Cantor, a student in the marketing class, was in a position that she was being taken out of her regular classes to retake tests from classes she had three years ago in order to graduate. Now she can concentrate on doing her work and spend her time learning - and she will graduate.

The pathways are rigorous according to Weakland but, there is something for every student who does the work and gets the passing grades to allow for them to walk across the stage and get their diploma. 

The bill allows for the class of 2019 and 2020 to graduate using the pathway requirements bringing relief to college and career bound students.

For more information about the requirements and pathways for graduation, visit http://education.ohio.gov/Topics/Ohio-s-Graduation-Requirements/Graduation-Requirements-2014-2017/Alternative-Pathway-for-Diploma.