Jackson County high school students along with others from across the state may face more graduation requirements following a proposal passed Wednesday by the Indiana State Board of Education.
The new requirements passed by a 7-4 vote after hours of testimony about the proposal which still must be incorporated into state law by the Indiana General Assembly.
At this time, graduation requirements say students must meet the criteria of one of four diplomas: General, Core 40, honors and technical honors. They also have to pass a graduation exam, which is the 10th-grade ISTEP test.
With the exception of the general diploma, which the federal government no longer includes in graduation rate calculations, the other diplomas remain in place.
The Class of 2023 will be the first students affected by changes if approved by lawmakers.
Those students will have to obtain a high school diploma and be required to complete additional coursework. That includes a project-based, work-based or service-based learning experience to show work force readiness and complete post secondary-ready competencies through a variety of options. Those options include fulfilling the requirements for an honors diploma; scoring college-ready on the ACT or SAT; completing an industry-recognized apprenticeship or completing a locally created pathways, which would have to be created by school corporations and approved by the state.
Joe Sheffer, principal at Brownstown Central High School, said tracking the different pathways may pose difficulty for local schools, especially if students decide to go to another school that does not offer the same pathway.
“It could be a tracking nightmare,” he said. “If we have a pathway and Seymour doesn’t have that pathway and one of our students moves back-and-forth, that becomes an issue.”
Seymour High School principal Greg Prange said he was disappointed the board did not pursue enough input from local educators whom the policy will affect.
“It’s very aggravating that there was so little input from the people who matter,” he said. “The high schools own this and it’s something we will have to adjust to and we will, but they’re so many questions that they have thrown out there.”
Prange said the board’s decision seemed rushed and was out of order.
“This is the ready, shoot, aim approach,” he said.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick, who voted in opposition, agreed with Prange.
During a visit to Brownstown Central Middle School on Thursday, McCormick said she agreed with the goals and framework, but the plan lacked details for local school corporations.
“When you pass policy, we shouldn’t have — in my opinion — so many unknowns,” she said and added she was disappointed the panel did not have a high school principal at the table for the decision.
McCormick said there were many unanswered questions in the proposal including the locally created pathway option for the post secondary competencies requirement; the number of hours required for the employment, service or project requirements; waivers; staffing issues; and more.
But board members seemed like they wanted to move the requirements along and “figure it out as we go,” McCormick said.
That’s an approach that is difficult for local schools, she added.
“That’s easier said than done when you have limited resources,” she said. “If a local superintendent put a policy through like that at the local level, we’d be fired and should be fired. “
Sheffer said he attended a meeting to explain the new requirements and felt he had a certain level of understanding when he left those meetings. But after reading the proposal passed Wednesday, Sheffer said he felt it was not as clear as he initially understood.
“The document written is very vague,” he said. “I wouldn’t say I’m 100 percent for it or against, but I’m just going to make the necessary adjustments at our school.”
Prange said he worries about students that require additional resources because of certain limitations.
“I’m worried about my ESL (English Second Language) population because there’s no pathway for them,” he said. “There’s no pathway for my special education students, and I really worry about them, and there’s no pathway for a kid that’s just not motivated.”
Prange also said it does not affect all schools the same way. He said private schools will have an easier time adjusting because they have the ability to reject lower performing students at admission.
“I have to educate everyone,” he said. “We will do the best we can.”
[sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”At a glance” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]
High school diploma:
Meet high school diploma requirements
Show employability skills (complete at least one of the options through locally developed programs):
- Project-based learning experience
- Service-based learning experience
- Work-based learning experience
- Meet all requirements of an Indiana Academic or Technical Honors Diploma
- Meet the “college-ready benchmarks” for the ACT or SAT
- Earn a score of 31 or higher on the ASVAB
- Earn a state- and industry-recognized credential or certification
Show postsecondary readiness (complete at least one of the options):
- Complete a state-, federal- or industry-recognized apprenticeship
- Earn a C average or better in at least 6 high school credits in a career and technical education sequence
- Earn a C average or better in three AP, IB, CLEP, Cambridge International or dual credit courses.
- Complete requirements of a locally created pathway that is approved by the state board