MARIETTA - Studying sports medicine at Muskingum University was one of the options New Matamoras resident Kasey Wittekind considered for continuing her education after high school.
Ultimately, the 2012 Frontier High School graduate opted to enroll in the adult cosmetology program at the Washington County Career Center. After completing 1,800 hours of training, she'll earn a certificate and be able to take the Ohio State Board of Cosmetology exam.
"I've always wanted to do hair, and it's a lot closer," Wittekind, 18, said of attending the career center.
Photo by Evan Bevins
Washington County Career Center adult cosmetology student Kassey Wittekind, right, teases the hair of fellow student Amber Guinn in the school’s cosmetology lab.
As the Ohio General Assembly and Department of Education prepare to revamp the way the state's schools are assessed and graded, area officials want the same weight given to the performance of students like Wittekind no matter which path they choose.
"I just think it depends on the person. Some people are meant for school and some aren't," Wittekind said.
The Ohio Senate on Wednesday approved House Bill 555, which would establish an A-through-F grading system for districts and individual schools. It would replace the current scale, with ratings of excellent, effective, continuous improvement, academic watch and academic emergency.
House Bill 555
* The Ohio Senate approved an amended version Wednesday by a vote of 27-6.
* The bill will now go back to the House, where it originally passed 59-27, to consider the Senate's changes.
* It will establish a new letter grading system for school districts and individual schools.
* The criteria include gap closing, achievement, progress, graduation, kindergarten-through-third-grade literacy and prepared for success, which focuses on career and college readiness.
Source: Ohio Legislative Service Commission.
But the labels aren't the only thing that will be different. The bill also revamps the way the grades are determined, establishing six components that determine a district or school's overall grade.
* College or Career?
One of those components is "prepared for success," which takes into account a student's readiness to enter college or the workplace. Colleen Grady, education policy adviser to Ohio House Speaker William Batchelder, said the goal is for the report card to show no preference as far as a student's post-secondary activities since the skills needed to attend college or enter the workforce are the same.
"It is agnostic about what students choose to do when they leave high school," she said.
That goes along with the federal Race to the Top program's emphasis on college and career readiness, as well as a growing recognition that there are valid alternatives to the traditional four-year college path.
But some, including Morgan Local Schools Superintendent Lori Snyder-Lowe, were concerned the version of the bill passed last week by the House of Representatives placed more emphasis on college attendance.
In prepared testimony delivered before the Senate's Education Committee last week, Snyder-Lowe pointed to the inclusion of statistics on advanced placement course participation and performance, as well as college entrance exams, in the report card criteria. Only 43 students at Morgan High School, about 14 percent of the total enrollment, took the three AP courses the school offered and just 68, about 22 percent, took the ACT college entrance exam.
"Even though the majority of our students do not attend college, it doesn't mean they are any less important or less worthy of support and opportunities for success than students of wealth or students who attend college," she said in the testimony. "I firmly believe that if our graduates become farmers, soldiers or coal miners instead of attending college, we have been successful and our schools are not failures."
Snyder-Lowe objects to schools being graded on areas like participation and scoring on AP exams, college entrance exams and college readiness.
"I don't mind reporting the data at all," she said Wednesday. "I just didn't want our district to be labeled a failure because we didn't produce 100 percent college (attendees) upon graduation."
* Equal Weight
Grady said the House bill did not give additional weight to students attending college, but amendments by the Senate committee on Tuesday were intended to clarify that.
The percentage of students who complete college entrance exams that show no remedial classes are required, students receiving honors diplomas and students earning recognized industry credentials will be viewed equally, Grady said. In addition, AP class statistics, credit earned for dual enrollment and international baccalaureate statistics will carry the same weight, she said.
Those factors will be used to determine a composite grade but will not be graded individually, Grady said.
Snyder-Lowe said Wednesday afternoon that she needed to look at the amended legislation before commenting on it.
Although Waterford High School saw 84 percent of the members of its Class of 2012 enroll at 14 different colleges, Wolf Creek Local Schools Superintendent Bob Caldwell agrees with Snyder-Lowe that college attendance should not be over-emphasized in the new grading method.
He said he's glad dual enrollment credits will have the same importance as AP classes and scores because Waterford doesn't offer the latter.
Students taking AP classes are likely already planning on going to college, Caldwell said. Dual enrollment, in which college courses and credit are offered on the campus of the school, opens the door to students who perhaps hadn't considered going to college before, he said.
"It's not for everyone. I just want them to try it," Caldwell said.
Career center Superintendent Dennis Blatt said a high school education in and of itself isn't enough in most cases to land a good-paying job. So the center tries to prepare students for the next step - whether that's going to a four-year institution, pursuing a two-year degree, enrolling in adult technical training or joining the workforce and apprenticing as a welder or other skilled laborer.
"We want to move all of our students into furthering their education," he said.
Dave Combs, director of adult training at the career center, noted that the number of high school graduates coming across campus from the secondary division to the adult side, has grown in the last two years, from 12 percent in 2010 to 18 percent this year.
He attributes that to increased awareness of the opportunities to make good money in a shorter timeframe than it takes to earn a two- or four-year degree.
"What I say to them when I meet with them is we're not the way, we're a way," he said.
* Up Next
House Bill 555 will now return to the House for reconciliation with the Senate version.
The bill leaves final determination of the grading method for the "prepared for success" component and others up to the Ohio Department of Education. The new grading system will be phased in, starting with reports for the current school year.