by Avery Miller, staff writer

SEPTEMBER 2022 — Ohio’s new graduation requirements for the class of 2023 and beyond allow students a more customized high school experience through earning seals on their diplomas. The seals allow students to show proof of proficiency in various areas and are earned by meeting the state or locally defined requirements.

“Students need two seals to graduate. One of them has to be a state defined seal, and the other one can be a state or locally defined seal,” explained Jacquelyn Collins, the school counselor for grades 10-12 at Bio-Med Science Academy.

Pictured above is each of the twelve seals and what they look like. Photo compiled from the Ohio Department of Education website.

Students get to choose which seals to pursue. It is possible for a high school student to earn all twelve seals on their diploma as long as they take one of the required routes, which could include earning a score of proficient or higher on end-of-course exams, earning a B or higher in a CCP class, or earning at least proficient on Advanced Placement exams. At this point in time, students can only earn seven seals through Bio-Med, all of which are state seals.

The local seals have not yet been defined by Bio-Med or approved by the board. These seals are the Community Service, the Student Engagement, and the Fine and Performing Arts seals. Collins said she does not know when information on the locally defined seals will be released.

Once they are decided, Collins said, “[The requirements] will definitely be located in a place where everyone will be able to access [them], including parents.”

In an Aug. 25 interview, Graham Wood, the Graduation and College in High School Administrator from the Ohio Department of Education’s Office of Graduate Success, said that he encouraged districts to define their seals: “We hope that schools have [their local seals] established at this point. The information has been available to them since July 2019. Though COVID has caused some schools to fall behind, most schools have established [local seals].”

Even if local seals aren’t defined, state seals are well within students’ reach.

Wood said, “Schools may not offer all state seals, since not all courses are available in different schools, but if a student does the work to earn a seal, then a school is required to award it to them.”

One example of this is foreign language at Bio-Med. Though Bio-Med does not offer any in-house foreign language courses, if a student does the work to earn the seal of Biliteracy on their diploma, Bio-Med, as well as any other school, can reach out to the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages to gain access to the assessment they need, so students who’ve learned a foreign language can be awarded the seal.

“Students can also use CCP classes to help earn seals their school doesn’t offer curriculum for,” Wood added. “There’s a number of possibilities for students to earn these seals. I think that students should know their options and what’s out there. Students should explore the best thing for them.”

Without taking CCP classes, Bio-Med students still have the ability to earn other seals, like the Citizenship seal, the College-Ready seal, the Technology seal, and the Honors Diploma.

According to Wood, “schools can create their own coursework that still proves students meet state standards and should be awarded the [technology] seal.”

Since Bio-Med’s technology classes fit those requirements, graduating at Bio-Med ensures students earn the state defined technology seal. Currently, 100% of seniors have received the technology seal on their diploma and 97% have earned the science seal. The remaining 3% of seniors will be responsible for earning an alternative second seal to meet graduation requirements.

Above is a table that lists each seal, state and locally defined. The chart also details the requirements students would have to meet to earn each state seal. More information can be found on the Ohio Department of Education’s official website. The Ohio Department of Education is also working on another resource, Unlock Your Future, containing information on graduation in more student friendly terms which should be available this September. Photo provided by the Ohio Department of Education.

Wood noted this ability to customize curriculum as a benefit to the seals.

“The more students can tailor their high school experience, the better off they’ll be for their future, whatever they choose to do,” he said.

Tessa Wood, a senior at Bio-Med, shared her concerns about the seals, saying, “I think the seals mean making a degree harder to obtain.”

Tessa was glad she met the new requirements, since she graduates this year and wasn’t aware anything had changed. 

“Prior to looking them up, I had no idea that was a thing. I thought I just had to have certain scores on certain tests as long as [I recieved] my required credits.”

Andrew Roshong, a junior at Bio-Med, had a similar experience.

“I overheard about [the seals] and did my own research on the Ohio Department of Education website. I understand that [the seals] are requirements for graduating in the state of Ohio, but I’m not sure about much else,” he said.

Roshong expressed concern regarding the lack of information, saying, “I’m not sure that adding another graduation requirement to the state is the best idea, especially when we are not told very much about them. I had to learn about this very important topic through the grapevine rather than through official channels. It is unsettling to say the least. What other vital info could we, as students, be missing? I would like some better communication with the administration about this topic, and for them to address this, and other, issues.”

Emma Brown, a junior at Kent Roosevelt High School, explained that her school communicated the new requirements last year.

“We’ve met with our guidance counselor already. Yeah, we aren’t graduating until next year, but I’m glad we had the meeting. It was kind of nerve racking to have new things I have to earn, but I’m glad I know about them in advance, so I can fix my schedule next year to classes that would help me get certain seals so that graduation isn’t a problem,” Brown said.

Kent Roosevelt defined their local seals and put their state seals into more student-friendly terms on a document that their students have had access to since Jan. 12.

Brown continued, “I’m glad we have the document. I like being able to see my options, so that I can choose classes with graduation requirements in my mind instead of just choosing classes and hoping they meet the requirements for two different seals. Especially the state seals — those seem a lot more difficult to earn. I feel like I actively have to try to earn them.”

Graham Wood thinks that students should “utilize their counselors” to find out information about the graduation seals.

Collins will be meeting with seniors mid-September to speak with them about credits, graduation pathway, diploma seals, and honor diplomas.

Graham Wood concluded, “The diploma with seals will have students tackle more for skill building which should help them see through graduation and identify more opportunities.”

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