Ohio Ponders Plan to Overhaul Senior Year

The Ohio Department of Education and the Ohio Board of Regents are partnering to take the senioritis out of the senior year of high school. The proposals to overhaul the second half of senior year, to make it more relevant to the academic or employment careers of high schoolers, have been floating around since 2001, but for more than a decade, no state took serious steps to adopt any of them. Now two groups in Ohio are now putting together their own plans to make the 12th year matter again.

The proposal getting the most buzz was offered by the head of Ohio's higher-education system Jim Petro and the Superintendent of the Ohio Department of Education Stan Heffner. They propose to fund Ohio's public schools only until 11th grade, giving seniors more choices to pursue their education during their last year in high school.

"We should make 12th grade a neutral and wherever the student goes the money should go," Petro said. "If half the students are taking courses at a community college, the college gets it."

Petro and Heffner said funding could also be distributed to cover seniors who go to technical training schools, seek apprenticeships and internships or stay in high school.

Although schools in the state already offer options like Advanced Placement classes that allow students to earn college credit — and also allows students to enroll in community college classes for free — only 4% of students currently take advantage of them. Although schools are happy to offer AP classes, they discourage students from the community college route since funding follows the student there as well.

As a compromise, the Cleveland State University faculty is going to be teaching a college-level math and English courses at three schools in the Cleveland area which will give college credits to students who complete them. Sajit Zachariah, the dean of the College of Education and Human Services which is sponsoring the classes hopes that it will make the transition between high school and college smoother as well as interest students in attending CSU the following year.

"If this model is successful, we hope to expand it to other districts," Zachariah said.

Solon schools Superintendent Joseph Regano believes that the solution to the wasted senior year is to follow the lead of countries like China and India and eliminate it entirely.

He believes students should graduate after 11th grade.

"Instead of K-12, start funding at age 4 and fund preschool through grade 11," Regano said. "This is a way to do [preschool] at no cost. And students who do not attend preschool are in disadvantaged neighborhoods."

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