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home : news : local news December 12, 2017

Pathways to HS graduation may change
By Kevin Thompkins

Some Hamilton County school superintendents are not pleased with proposed new graduation pathways, headed to the Indiana State Department of Education.

Beginning in 2023, students hoping to graduate high school in Indiana may have to satisfy three requirements, including the ability to demonstrate employable skills.

A state panel recently passed the recommendations for the Indiana State Department of Education.

"The need for sweeping requirements for all students is not convincing, proposed options are questionable or objectionable, implementation will be a nightmare, and real concerns about student needs will be overshadowed by a demanding, unfocused system," said Annetta Petty, Noblesville Schools director of learning.

In addition to meeting statutory defined diploma credit and curricular requirements, students will have to learn and "employability skills standards, locally developed."

Employability skills may be demonstrated by one of the following:

• Completion of a "Project-based Learning Experience"

• Completion of a "Service-based Learning Experience"

• Completion of a "Work-based Learning Experience"

Also, students must demonstrate Postsecondary-Ready Competencies, including:

• Honors Diploma: Fulfill all requirements of either the Academic or Technical Honors diploma

• ACT: Meet college-ready benchmarks

• SAT: Meet college-ready benchmarks

• Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery: Earn at least a minimum Armed Forces Qualification Test score to qualify for placement into one of the branches of the U.S. Military

• State- and Industry-recognized credential or certification

• State-, Federal- or Industry-recognized apprenticeship

• Must earn a C average of higher in at least six high school credits in a career sequence.

• Advanced Placement/International Baccalaureate/Cambridge International courses, or College Level Examination Program: Must earn a C average or higher in at least three courses

• Locally created pathway: Must meet the framework from, and earn the approval of the state board of education.

The approach raises concerns for Hamilton County school superintendents.

"We question the imposition of broad requirements on every student and every school in the state in the absence of evidence that such drastic measures are needed," Petty said "For instance, we believe that students who earn a Core 40 Diploma with Academic or Technical Honors demonstrates through their coursework the Employability Skills Benchmarks that are referenced in the requirement that includes project-, service-, or work-based learning experiences."

In a letter sent to the panel during the deliberation process, and signed by all Hamilton County school superintendents, said the proposed standards would lower local graduation rates.

"The current proposal would significantly lower all Hamilton County Schools graduation rates. The statewide implications could be even more dire, dependent on a district's available resources to support the new mandates," the letter stated.

The superintendents' letter said some current programs would suffer, including:

• At-risk/special education students are penalized under this proposal, and their ability to earn a diploma will be significantly diminished. There are very few options in the CTE pathways that lead to a diploma for these students. This student population will need to start almost immediately on a CTE pathway that has yet to be created.

• The requirements of seeking and hiring qualified CTE and vocationally licensed staff to develop, teach and monitor the CTE Concentrator Pathway as well as the work-based learning, internships, and apprenticeships will require time and resources that do not currently exist. Additionally, relying on employers or service agencies to evaluate, record and report student activities adds responsibility to non-school entities with little ownership of results.

• New requirements will require new monitoring systems to manage and track data. This will require more human resources.

• The current proposal adds more testing to our already rigorous schedule. The suggested benchmarks for the ACT and the SAT are likely unattainable by the Core 40 or General Diploma track students. We are concerned about the number of tests, the cycle of testing for those who do not reach benchmarks, as well as the cost and staff time required for additional testing.

• The proposed CTE Pathways and Locally Centered Pathways are not clearly defined and lack alignment with current DOE offerings.

"Related to concerns about use of college and military qualifying benchmarks for high school graduation is a concern that options for students who struggle academically are either missing from the proposal or are poorly defined," Petty said. "Some people point to career credentials, certifications, and apprenticeships; career 'concentrators'; and locally created pathways, but these are in many cases very demanding (credentials), in transition (concentrators), or only named and not developed (local pathways). Rough estimates from various schools suggest that approximately a quarter of the students who graduated in 2017 would not have qualified for a diploma if the graduation pathways had been in place.

If approved by the department of education, the Graduation Pathways will become effective for the graduating class of 2023.

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