Indiana needs to raise bar on K-12 education

Indiana spends about $7 billion a year on K-12 schools and claims to be a pioneer in education reform. Yet thousands of its high school students are graduating without the basic math, reading and writing skills needed to succeed in college.

That’s what a series of reports from the Indiana Commission for Higher Education have shown since the state started tracking data on the college-readiness of its students eight years ago. And that’s why the commission voted last week to approve proposed changes to Indiana’s high school diploma requirements.

The state commission released 2013 data in March. Though there was statewide improvement of 5 percentage points in the number of students who graduated from public high schools and entered college without needing remediation, 33 percent who graduated with the state’s required “college preparatory” diploma, known as Core 40, had to take at least one remedial course after enrolling at one of Indiana’s state-supported colleges.

Fewer than 50 percent of students enrolled in remedial courses complete them. Those who do find their path to graduation delayed or derailed. Two-thirds of students in four-year colleges needing remediation fail to earn their degrees within six years. Fewer than 8 percent of students in two-year colleges earn their degrees within four years.

A new College & Career Ready Diploma would replace the Core 40 Diploma and increase the credit mandates from 40 to 44, under the proposal approved by the Commission for Higher Education. The plan also calls for four years of math instruction as a requirement for high school graduation; today only the Honors Diploma requires four years of math.

Gov. Mike Pence made college readiness one of his top priorities when taking office in 2013. “The need to remediate our high school graduates is a failure for our students,” he said.

And the Indiana College Readiness Report from March suggests Pence’s call for stiffer high school standards could increase college graduations. The Indiana State Board of Education and our General Assembly must act.

They can raise graduation requirements by approving Indiana’s new high school diplomas during the 2016 legislative session.

This was distributed by Hoosier State Press Association. Send comments to [email protected].