Valuing Ohio high school diplomas

If something does not change, about one-third of the juniors in Ohio public high schools will not be given diplomas when they had hoped in spring of 2018. That is because they will not have complied with all the state’s requirements to graduate.

Obviously, something is wrong. The problems — and the requirements themselves are not the only one — need to be corrected.

State Board of Education members are asking the General Assembly to alter the graduation requirements, but only for students who will be seniors next year. State school officials want “alternative pathways to graduation.”

Translation: We don’t have time to truly correct the situation, so the idea is to find ways to let more of next year’s seniors get their diplomas. Unfortunately, that may be the only way to deal with the problem, for now.

But even as state board members were discussing their proposal, they heard a warning. “It will be a paper victory,” cautioned Chad Aldis of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. “Our students won’t be able to read better, they won’t have better math skills and they won’t be better prepared to be citizens.”

He is absolutely correct. Without realistic yet demanding standards, the worst public schools in Ohio will never get better. Students now able to coast to graduation will never decide they have to work for their diplomas.

Is that what we want? Diplomas not worth the paper on which they are printed for many graduates?

Clearly, there is little alternative but to give current high school juniors a break. But both legislators and state school board members need to work toward real solutions.