NewsLocal NewsSummit County


Thousands of Ohio high school seniors may not graduate in 2019 unless law changes

Posted at 3:55 PM, Oct 26, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-27 22:12:27-04

Skylar Phillips has a cumulative grade point average of 3.3. She made the honor roll multiple times, gets A's and B's and is the president of student council. Yet, the 17-year-old Springfield High School senior is in jeopardy of not graduating with her class of 2019.

She's not alone. At this moment, about 80 out of 180 Springfield seniors are in danger of not getting their diplomas next spring.

"I'm very like nervous of what's next and hoping I can be able to graduate with my class and my friends," Skylar said.

Skylar needs to earn 18 out 35 points on seven end-of-course state tests. However, she currently only has 15 points.

She hopes to get to 18 points by re-taking a biology test from her freshman year when she scored low.

The difficulty for Skylar, 17, and other students like her, is the struggle to score well on major tests.

"I have very bad test anxiety, so just taking a test even if I know it and I feel like I know it, I just go in there and I panic," she explained. "It's just like I draw a blank just because I know the test is riding on something that could affect my life."

Under a temporary law, the 2018 class had other possible pathways to graduation that didn't rely so heavily on state testing, including having a GPA of 2.5 on 4.0 scale in all courses completed during 12th grade, completing a capstone project, completing 120 hours of community service or earning a WorkKeys exam score of three or higher on three sections.

Skylar was on track to graduate after getting the required score on a WorkKeys exam through her marketing class her junior year.

However, she was surprised to learn the additional pathways are not available to the 2019 class, leaving Skylar stressed that she will not get her cap and gown.

Her stepmother, Heather Phillips, understands the test anxiety aspect because she teaches seventh and eighth grade students who deal with the same problem.

"She had that same pathway that the kids before her had, and then now, they're going to pull it away with no safety net at the last minute," Phillips said. "She has been in school 13 years. She has earned that diploma."

State Rep. Tavia Galonski said concern over the high number of seniors possibly not graduating is a major issue across Ohio.

"A conservative estimate of 32 percent of the current high school seniors all over Ohio are not on track to graduate and receive a high school diploma," Galonski said.

Galonski pointed out that most of the extra pathways will return in 2022, but that puts kids in the 2019, 2020 and 2021 classes in a potential bind. She has submitted House Bill 630 which could bring the pathways back in time for all the seniors in Skylar's position.

Galonski said the bill was introduced to the education committee in May, but no hearings have been scheduled.

Three hearings are needed before the bill could be moved out of committee and eventually voted on by the State House and Senate.

Galonski is hoping hearings can be fast-tracked and scheduled for November and December.

"They're making straight A's, some of these kids are, and they're still not on track to get this if we don't implement these pathways," she said.

Most of Skylar's marketing classmates find themselves in the same boat, uncertain if they will have the requirements to graduate.

They've been contacting Ohio lawmakers and urging them for hearings on HB 630.

In the meantime, Skylar feels like she's in a nerve-wracking holding pattern, unable to apply to colleges and unsure about her future.

"I think it's very scary for a lot of kids and a lot of parents and teachers and the schools and everyone else in general who's witnessing it and going through it," she said.