In 2014, Ohio undertook a major education reform effort to transform the way that students in the state receive high school education. The resulting legislation, House Bill 487, addressed numerous education issues, including home schooling, data privacy, and the number of standardized assessments students must take. Notably, the bill recognized the significance and value of career preparation and included a number of provisions and policies to support Career Technical Education (CTE) through career advisement, opportunities to earn industry-recognized credentials and more.
Career advisement: Starting with the 2015-2016 school year, the law requires all districts to provide career guidance and advising. The Ohio Department of Education provided model policies to assist districts in implementation, which are publicly available on the Department’s website.
CTE in middle grades: The law also requires schools to provide CTE courses in 7th and 8th grade by the 2015-16 school year. In most states, CTE is only offered at the high school level. To support local implementation, the Department of Education provides course outlines for each course that is allowed at the middle school level on their website, and also offers guidance on implementation.
Graduation requirements: Perhaps the most significant policy change under HB 487 is a modification to the state’s graduation requirements allowing multiple pathways to graduation, including one that recognized students who earn industry-recognized credentials. In addition to completing a full course of study and taking four end-of-course assessments, the policy provides students with multiple options for earning a diploma. Previously, students were required to pass graduation exams in five subjects in addition to completing a college- and career-ready course of study. The state’s new approach recognizes the value of industry-recognized credentials as an indicator of students’ readiness for their next step after high school. Beginning with the class of 2018, the law requires all students in Ohio to complete a full course of study, take four end-of-course assessments, and meet one of the following requirements to graduate:
Earn a) a State Board of Education-approved, industry-recognized credential or a state-issued license for practice in a career and b) a score demonstrating workforce readiness and employability on a job skills assessment;
Earn a cumulative passing score on seven end-of-course exams in English, mathematics, social studies and science; or
Earn a “remediation-free” score on a nationally-recognized college admission exam such as ACT or SAT.
In each of these new policies, the Ohio Department of Education has allowed districts flexibility in how they implemented the policies, while still providing helpful and clear guidance. The Department even has provided communications tools to help districts explain these changes to schools and parents. This has enabled, districts to receive the support they need and ensure the rigor of their CTE offerings while still applying the policies in their own context. In 2017, state policymakers modified the requirements for the graduating class of 2018 only to provide additional options.
|Credential list and associated point values for the Hospitality and Tourism Career Cluster.|
Policy in Action
Identifying industry-recognized credentials:
Each industry-recognized credential valued under Ohio’s credential graduation pathway is assigned a weighted point value by the Ohio Department of Education. Students who choose the credential pathway for graduation are able to mix and match credentials within career fields, as long as the total number of points meets or exceeds 12 points. For example, under the Hospitality and Tourism career field, a student can graduate with just a Certified Dietary Manager credential (12 points) or they can earn a Certified Culinarian credential, (9 points) and combine it with a ServSafe credential for the remaining 3 points.
Career advisers help students pick the pathway that best fits their interests and goals, and the earlier exposure to CTE in middle school helps students get a feel for different career fields. Under this system, students can earn credentials that are more personalized to their goals and interests, and the state can still ensure that students are earning high-value, meaningful credentials. This unique approach to assessing the value of industry-recognized credentials stands out as a promising implementation practice.
Modifications to graduation requirements:
In 2016, district superintendents across the state raised concern that new, more rigorous end-of-course examinations were too difficult and that the state would see graduation rates fall by up to a third under the new policy. Responding to these concerns, state policymakers in June 2017 modified the graduation requirements for the class of 2018 to ensure students would not be negatively impacted while state leaders developed a long-term solution.
The temporary policy change adopted two additional pathways to graduation. Under the first option, students still have to earn 20 course credits and take end-of-course exams, but they can also graduate by completing at least two requirements out of a menu of different options. Options include completing a senior-year capstone or earning three credit hours via college credit plus.
Under the second pathway, students can earn a diploma by completing end-of-course examinations, finishing at least four courses in a state-approved CTE program of study, and either earning a proficient score on technical skill assessments, earning an industry-recognized credential or completing 250 hours of work-based learning. State policymakers will modify requirements for future graduating classes.
Since this law passed, Ohio has seen a dramatic increase in access to middle school CTE programs, with 21,551 student particpating middle school CTE in 2015 and more than 73,728 students partipating middle school CTE in 2017.
- Law: Full text of HB487
- Graduation Requirements: Overview of graduation requirements
- Resource: List of state-approved industry-recognized credentials
- Resource: Middle-grade program implementation considerations
- Article: Cleveland.com: “Easing of Ohio High School Graduation Rules Is Now Law – But Questions Remain” (2017)
- Report: Exapnding Middle School CTE to Promote Lifelong Learner Success
Last Updated January 2020