by Joe Murphy

Reporter

Twinsburg -- Nine Twinsburg High School seniors were not eligible to join approximately 290 of their classmates in the commencement ceremonies at E.J. Thomas Performing Arts Hall May 24.

The nine students were prohibited from graduating after they did not score high enough on at least one section of the Ohio Graduation Tests, which are first administered in the spring of a student's sophomore year.

They will have a chance to pass the test again this summer.

If a student does not score "proficient or above" on any one of the five sections -- reading, social studies, math, science and writing -- he or she has six more opportunities to pass the specific section or sections, Assistant Superintendent Mike Lenzo explained. The last opportunity for the seniors to take the exams came in mid-March, he said.

According to J.C. Benton, spokesperson for the Ohio Department of Education, the class of 2007 is the first class required to pass all five sections of the OGT. Students in previous years had to pass all five sections between the OGT and the ninth-grade proficiency tests, Lenzo said.

The ninth-grade proficiencies are being phased out however, as Benton explained the test is "too [easy] for students." Ohio Department of Education officials have said the department is trying to "raise the bar" by putting students through more "rigorous" testing prior to college.

Last year's seniors were given a third opportunity at the beginning of May to pass the ninth-grade proficiencies, according to Lenzo. Graduating seniors from 2006 and earlier also were given twice as many chances to pass the ninth-grade proficiencies than the 2007 seniors had to pass the OGT's, Lenzo said.

While Lenzo agreed the OGT's are more rigorous than the ninth-grade tests, he said he also feels the state department is justified in asking students to meet the higher standards set forth in the OGT.

"As a district, we want every kid to be immersed in the learning environment," he said. "To reach this standard is appropriate. What's hard is when it impacts a particular person."

Curriculum Director Susan Buckbee noted she views the new requirement as "a challenge" the district has to take head on.

"It is what it is," she said. "It's a challenge we really have to take very seriously in order to assist every one of our students." The students now will have to wait until July for another stab at the tests, made up of multiple choice, short answer and essay questions, according to Lenzo.

A four-day "intervention" will be offered for each student, Lenzo said, with the test being administered at the end of the intervention by a high school instructor.

Further attempts also will be available in late October 2007 and mid-March 2008, if necessary.

Or, according to the Ohio Department of Education's Web site, students can graduate by passing four of the five sections if they meet a list of seven criteria, including having a 97 percent attendance rate and "a letter recommending graduation from each of the person's high school teachers in the subject area of the failed OGT and from the person's high school principal."

However, Lenzo said none of the nine students met all seven points of the criteria, and therefore must pass all five sections of the OGT.

For a full list of the criteria, visit the Ohio Department of Education's Web site at www.ode.state.oh.us.

E-mail: jmurphy@recordpub.com

Phone: 440-232-4055 ext. 4104