Ohio students would have to work harder and longer to graduate from high school under Gov. Ted Strickland's ambitious new plan to improve public schools. The governor said last week in his State of the State address that he wants all high school students to take end-of-course examinations, write a senior thesis, and participate in a service-learning project before graduation. He would also require every junior to take the ACT test, although students would not need to earn a certain score for a diploma.
In addition to seeking tougher graduation requirements, Strickland's education plan calls for improved assessments for elementary and middle school students, a residency program for new teachers, and better tracking of how schools spend money. If that's not asking enough, he also wants to add 20 days to the school year, which would make Ohio's the longest school year in the country.
Some families are already voicing concern about the impact of these reforms. They worry that the longer school year will keep their teenage children from working in the summer or enjoying summer vacations. There is also a question about how Ohio will pay for these reforms, which would be phased in over eight years. The state faces a $7 billion deficit.
Like other states, Ohio is counting on federal stimulus money to help get itself out of the hole and cover some of these costly reforms. Strickland said his education plan would boost the number of students going to college in the state. He said that the ACT test and end-of-course exams would be an improvement over the current graduation exit exam, which he said "does not measure creativity and problem-solving skills."
Five other states already require students to take the ACT test: Illinois, Michigan, Kentucky, Colorado, and Wyoming. At least two of those states—Colorado and Illinois—have seen an 8 percent increase in their collegebound rates since the ACT test became a graduation requirement, a 2005 study by the ACT found.
The saying "As Ohio Goes, So Goes the Nation" has become popular to describe presidential politics. If the Buckeye State moves ahead with its ambitious education plan, will the rest of the nation follow?