• New Ohio Legislation Makes Reforms to Policies Affecting Primary and Secondary Education
  • August 6, 2014
  • Law Firm: Walter - Cleveland Office
  • The Mid-Biennium Review bill was recently passed and presents changes to current laws related to public education. Among the numerous modifications implemented, major revisions include adjustments to teacher evaluations and new graduation requirements for the replacement of the Ohio Graduation Tests. These revisions will take effect as early as this fall, for the 2014-2015 school year.

    Modified Standards for Teacher Evaluations and New Alternative Evaluation Structure

    • On June 12, 2014, HB 362 was signed into law and permits flexibility in the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System (OTES). The frequency of evaluations may now be reduced for any teacher who receives a rating of "accomplished" or "skilled" on their most recent evaluation. Teachers who receive a rating of "accomplished" may be evaluated once every 3 years, while teachers who receive a rating of "skilled" may be evaluated once every 2 years, as long as the teacher's academic growth measure for the most recent year is average or higher. A credentialed evaluator must still conduct at least one observation and hold one conference with teachers in any year in which they have not been formally evaluated as a result of receiving a rating of "skilled" or "accomplished." A school board may also elect not to evaluate teachers who were on leave for more than half of the school year or who have submitted notice of retirement.
    • Districts will now be able to choose between a new alternative teacher evaluation structure and the original structure. Under the new structure, teacher performance measures and student academic growth measures may account for 42.5 percent of each rating, while the remaining 15 percent may be attributed to student surveys, teacher self-evaluations, peer review evaluations or student portfolios.

    College and Work-Ready Assessment System and New Graduation Requirements

    Under HB 487, which was signed into law on June 16, 2014, the College and Work-Ready Assessment System will replace the Ohio Graduation Tests (OGTs), beginning with the 2014-2015 school year, for students who enter ninth grade for the first time on or after July 1, 2014. With the elimination of the OGTs, three new paths, together with the unchanged curriculum requirements, have been implemented in order for students to receive a high school diploma.
    Students must satisfy one of the following paths:

    • Path 1: Students must take seven end-of-course exams (English Language Arts I and II, Physical Science, Algebra I, Geometry, American History and American Government). The student must attain a minimum cumulative performance score (set by the State Board) on these examinations. (Note: Students enrolled in an Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, or Advanced Standing Program must take the exams aligned to those courses in lieu of the Physical Science, American History, and American Government end-of-course exams. The State Board may also decide to include an Algebra II end-of-course exam in place of Algebra I, beginning with students entering ninth grade on or after July 1, 2016.)
    • Path 2: Students must earn a "remediation-free" score on a national college admission exam. All students will have the opportunity to take the exam their junior year. The district will be responsible for covering costs of administering the exam and the State will reimburse the district.
    • Path 3: Students must obtain either an industry-recognized credential or state-issued license for practice in a specific vocation while attaining a passing score (set by the State Board) on a nationally recognized job skills assessment.

    Other Key Reforms to Current Policies

    • Third Grade Reading Guarantee: School districts that cannot furnish the number of teachers needed for the 2014-2015 or 2015-2016 school year, who satisfy one or more of the criteria to teach a third-grader who reads below grade level, are now permitted to submit an alternative staffing plan for that school year.
    • Opt-Out Curriculum Requirements: The terminal date of an exemption from the curriculum requirements for graduation is extended to July 1, 2016. Beginning with students who enter ninth grade for the first time on or after July 1, 2014, new curriculum requirements for exemption have been established. Students are required to complete 4 units of math, one of which must be probability and statistics, computer programming, applied mathematics, quantitative reasoning or any other course approved by the Department, using standards established by the Superintendent. Students must complete 5 elective units and 3 science units, which must include an inquiry-based lab experience engaging students in asking scientific questions and gathering and analyzing information. (Note: School districts must provide annual notification to the Department regarding the number of students who choose to qualify for graduation under the exemption.)
    • Extending Access to Career-Technical Education: School districts are now required to provide career-technical education to students in grades 7-12. (Note: A school district is permitted to obtain a waiver from the requirement to provide career-technical education to students in grades 7 and 8 if specified criteria are met.)
    • Parental Review Committees: School boards must now establish a parental advisory committee, or another method of review, to provide parents with the opportunity to review textbooks, reading lists, instructional materials, and academic curriculum used by the schools in the district.
    • Dropout Prevention: Beginning in the 2015-2016 school year, school districts are required to identify students at risk of dropping out of school and must develop a student success plan with the assistance of the student's parent, guardian or custodian.
    • College Credit Plus Program (CCP): At the outset of the 2015-2016 school year, the CCP (formally called the Post-Secondary Enrollment Options Program) will govern arrangements in which a high school student enrolls in a college and, upon successful completion of coursework taken under the program, receives credit from the college. This program requires public high schools to develop, in consultation with a public partnering college, a 15-credit hour and a 30-credit hour model course pathway which must be published among the school's official list of course offerings for the program. Public high schools will be required to provide information and counseling services, beginning in the sixth grade, to students and their parents before a student's participation in the program is permitted. Public high schools must also implement a policy for awarding grades and ensure that the policy is equivalent to the schools' policy for Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, and honors courses.
    • Released Time to Attend Religious Instruction: School boards are now permitted to adopt a policy authorizing students to attend released time courses in religious instruction, conducted by a private entity off school property, if specified criteria are met.

    Next Steps

    Entering the 2014-2015 school year, school districts should prepare for these changes by taking the following steps:

    • Review and revamp the OTES policy if the school district wishes to implement the new performance measure scale and change evaluation procedures for "accomplished" and "skilled" teachers.
    • Prepare to implement the College and Work-Ready Assessment System.
    • Prepare to submit an alternative teacher staffing plan if unable to furnish a sufficient number of third grade educators in accord with the Third Grade Reading Guarantee.
    • Be prepared for students to opt-out of curriculum requirements for graduation under new standards.
    • Prepare to offer students in grades 7-12 a career-technical education.
    • Create a parental advisory committee (or another method of review) for reviewing textbooks and academic curriculum within the school district.
    • Locate students at risk of dropping out of school and prepare to implement a student success plan.
    • Prepare for the replacement of the Post-Secondary Enrollment Options Program (PESO) with the College Credit Plus Program (CCP).
    • Determine whether policy will be adopted to authorize students to attend courses in religious instruction off school property.