November 6, 2017

Educators Raise Concern On High School Diploma Overhaul

A "graphic recording" of the Graduation Pathways Committee's discussion on Oct. 17, 2017, as illustrated by Mike Fleisch. - Indiana State Board of Education

A "graphic recording" of the Graduation Pathways Committee's discussion on Oct. 17, 2017, as illustrated by Mike Fleisch.

Indiana State Board of Education

Requirements for high school graduation are expected to dramatically change for the Indiana’s incoming freshman students next year.

A committee tasked by lawmakers to draft the new high school requirements holds its final meeting Tuesday when it will issue a final recommendation. The committee, chaired by State Board of Education member, has met eight times since August.

The goal is to give college and work-bound students more options to earn a diploma so they are better prepared. Legislators and business leaders hope the new rules would help fill the state’s skills gap in workers and lower remediation for students in college.

But some local school leaders say more time is needed to figure out how schools can track these new requirements and if the options will be equitable for all districts.

Others warn the new qualifications could cause graduation rates to drop.

Greenfield-Central Superintendent Harold Olin says 25 percent of the district’s current seniors would not graduate under the new rules.

“The majority of those students have special needs or from low-income families,” he says.

The most recent draft calls for students to satisfy three requirements: earn the state-mandated credits; complete a project or work some type of job; and pass a test like the end of course exam, SAT or earn an industry certificate.

Currently, students are required to earn at least 40 credits and pass a math and an English exam at some point during their high school years to earn a Core 40 diploma. There are three other diploma types available, including a General Diploma that does not require passage of the exams.

The State Board of Education will meet after Tuesday’s meeting to discuss the proposal. The board is expected to vote on it next month. If approved, the new requirements would go into effect for students incoming freshmen, the class of 2022.

Jeff Butts, Wayne Township superintendent and president of the Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents, says many education leaders are in agreement of plan’s parts but worry the committee doesn’t get the challenges schools will face in Fall 2018.

“They don’t sit in our school houses. They don’t know what this looks like to implement, he told the state board last week.

Butts and others want the state board to hold off on approval, so local educators can assess how to implement the changes and suggest possibly state policy changes during the 2018 General Assembly. The legislative session begins in January.

The proposed graduation pathways have three requirements, according to the most recent draft:

  1. High School Diploma: Meet the state required credit and curricular requirements.
  2. Learn and Demonstrate Employability Skills. Learn employability skills standards through locally developed programs by completing: A project-based learning experience; service-based learning experience; or work-based learning experience.
  3. Demonstrate “postsecondary-ready competencies by completing at least one of the following: Earn Indiana Honors or Technical Honors diploma: ACT; SAT; Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB), earn a score of 50 or higher; State- and industry-recognized credential; State- and industry-recognized apprenticeship or co-op; Career-technical education concentrator, must earn a C average or higher in at least three courses in a CTE sequence; Three AP/IB/CLEP/CIE/Dual Credit courses, must earn a C average or higher in all courses; or district can create its own pathway if approved by State Board of Education.

Elizabeth Walters, Beech Grove High School principal, says educators agree to change pathways to graduation to better prepare students for post-high school life.

But she argues there’s not been enough discussion by the committee on how to accomplish that.

“We don’t seem to have a voice that is being heard in this conversion,” she said last week during the State Board of Education meeting. “Rigor is not achieved by piling on new requirements.”

The Graduation Pathway Panel meets 9 a.m Nov. 7 at the Indiana State Library, History Reference Room 211. The State Board of Education will meet at 1 p.m. to discuss the final proposal.

Contact WFYI education reporter Eric Weddle at or call (317) 614-0470. Follow on Twitter: @ericweddle.

Support independent journalism today. You rely on WFYI to stay informed, and we depend on you to make our work possible. Donate to power our nonprofit reporting today. Give now.


Related News

IPS teacher charged with felony after filming second-grade student getting beat up
Districts struggle to educate voters about murky referendum language on ballots
Messy breakup at Indianapolis charter school tees up fight over students, teachers