Indiana Ed. board approves new grad requirements

INDIANAPOLIS (WANE) The Indiana State Board of Education has approved changes to the state’s high school graduation requirements.

The board on Wednesday voted 7-4 to approve new requirements for graduation that include a series of tasks in place of a test, as currently mandated in Indiana high schools. Under the new requirements, students will have to complete coursework, demonstrate employable skills through service or work projects and show they are ready for post-secondary study through exams that include the SAT and ACT.

The new requirements for Indiana’s high school students will begin with the 2019 freshman class.

“I am excited for the opportunities these new pathways will provide Hoosier students,” said Dr. Byron Ernest, chairman of the Graduation Pathways Panel. “They will go a long way to ensure our students are truly prepared for success in whatever they choose to pursue after high school.”

The pathways were developed by the Graduation Pathways Panel, a SBOE subcommittee, which gathered input from hundreds of stakeholders during 30 combined hours of discussion over the past year.

The state said that the pathways program will allow students to not simply earn a high school diploma, but also gain and demonstrate both “academic and employability skills that ensure they are ready for their next step — whether that’s the military, industry training, college or a job.”

Highlights of Indiana’s New Graduation Pathways, according to the Indiana State Board of Education, are:

  • Individualization: The new pathways move from a one-size-fits-all approach to one where every student chooses a route to graduation that reflects their goals after commencement.
  • Local Flexibility: The new pathways give schools and districts the flexibility to design and offer courses and experiences that are aligned to locally identified priorities and community needs.
  • Relevancy: Because students will get to select the path that makes the most sense for their goals after high school, their high school experience is more relevant to them personally.
  • Currency: The new pathways give students something of value and meaning to be used to help them succeed in the next step along their personal journey—whether it’s more education and training or a career.
  • Workforce-Aligned: The new pathways are designed to ensure today’s students gain the skills and traits they need to be successful in our rapidly-changing, modern economy—including a strong academic foundation, intellectual curiosity and a passion for lifelong learning.
  • Rigor: To address the skills gap and ensure all students are prepared to succeed, we need to establish higher expectations for all students—with the foundational belief that every student is capable of achieving personal success. These new pathways strike the right balance of higher expectations for all students with more individualized options to meet every student’s unique needs and goals.

Not all sides were on board with the new graduation requirements. NewsChannel 15 spoke with several superintendents, including Dr. Phil Downs of Southwest Allen County Schools, Marilyn Hissong of East Allen County Schools, and Dr. Wendy Robinson of Fort Wayne Community Schools.

The superintendents feel the decision was rushed without enough input from educators.

“I think we feel frustration right now,” said Hissong. “The details that go each component are missing right now.”

Robinson shared her sentiments.

“People aren’t saying throw it all away because all of us want our kids to be ready for the world of work or higher-ed, but people are saying pause and step back,” she explained.

While they like the idea of pushing students to be better, they’re concerned about the costs of implementing these more advanced requirements. They also see huge hurdles in logistics and tracking students.

Downs broke down all the issues with students being required to do an internship to graduate.

“What if they have no vehicle?” he asked. “What if they have no car? Where is the internship? How are you getting them to the internship? If you even have an internship for all of your students? Are they high quality? Are they good or are we just checking off working at somebody’s house, I mean how we track this, how we make sure that it’s meaningful and relevant and achieves a purpose is going to be a huge load of work.”

Downs said graduation rates could drop 20 to 30 percent across the state with the new requirements.

“The vote today was a disappointing slap in the face to Indiana’s educators,” he said. “I am very worried about the impact of this poorly thought out plan on Indiana’s most vulnerable yet valuable girls and boys.”

Downs was in Indianapolis for Wednesday’s along with other area educators and parents.

Late Wednesday State Superintendent Jennifer McCormick, who voted against the recommendations, released this statement: “Although disappointed in the vote, I’m extremely proud of our K-12 colleagues. They continue to be tireless advocates for our children and have remained student focused throughout this process. It is clear our Indiana educators are committed to being part of a solution to workforce and higher education concerns. The Department will continue working with our legislators, concentrating on successful implementation of the Graduation Pathways, and collaborating with all those who work on behalf of our students on a daily basis.”

Downs, Hissong and Robinson said this is not the end of this matter. They will be confronting the governor and state legislators to create requirements that are more pro-student.

Read Indiana’s new gradation pathways online here.