"A high school senior year is in many ways a wasteland," he said. "They have passed the Ohio Graduation Test and tests to get into college. Wouldn't it be something to have them meshed together? We're pretty excited about this."Ohio has for years provided many options for meshing these years together, much to the chagrin of local school districts, which have footed many a college tuition payment for its seniors. My wife went to college her senior year, and that was in 1996. Seniors to Sophomores was one of the few Strickland-era education programs that received wide support among Democrats and Republicans. There are Early College High Schools throughout the state that are re-making not just 12th Grade, but all of High School for first-generation, college-bound children. And they are some of the highest-performing schools in the state.
And yes, in House Bill 1 from 2009, there was the ACT Plus -- a fundamental change in graduation requirement from passing Ohio's OGT to passing the ACT as well as successfully completing end-of-course exams and a senior project. The idea behind the ACT plus was to make 12th Grade relevant by preparing students for critical thinking and project-based learning prior to going into the workforce or college. Research has shown there's more similarity between the skills necessary to succeed in today's workforce and college than there used to be, so this focus would better prepare kids not just for college, but for life.
Like nearly everything else in HB 1's education reform package, though, the current administration ditched this effort too.
Heffner's comments made it seem like there's never been a real effort to change 12th Grade, or give kids options (even though Farkas did mention the college attendance options, but not the ACT Plus). If my wife was able to spend her senior year in college 16 years ago, is this really as cutting-edge an idea as Heffner makes it sound? And is it fair of Heffner and Chancellor Jim Petro to give the impression that he and his administration are coming up with this idea, ignoring the work of administrations dating back at least 20 years?
I was concerned, again, that money, rather than research, is driving a lot of this talk. Solon's Superintendent Joseph Regano said in the story that we should eliminate 12th Grade and cover 4-year-old pre-school. That way we get in one year of universal pre-school at the same cost. An interesting idea, but clearly it's budget, not research driven. Will eliminating 12th Grade make kids more successful? Or does it just make kids cheaper for fearful legislators?
Again, I'm all for making changes that peer-reviewed research shows will improve students' chances of succeeding in life. Yet once again, Ohio's leaders seem hell-bent on executing reforms that have more to do with doing things on the cheap.
Have we learned nothing from our experience with pre-school? As I've put it 1,000 times:
Don't expect a Cadillac when you buy a Chevy.