Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick has appealed to members of the Indiana congressional delegation for help in addressing a change in how the state is required to calculate high-school graduation rates.
In a letter this week to Indiana’s two senators and nine House members, McCormick describes problems that could result from the change and invites the delegation to help resolve a disagreement between state and federal education agencies.
Under guidance from the U.S. Department of Education, Indiana will no longer be able to include students who earn the general diploma in calculations of the official graduation rate for high schools. About 12 percent of Indiana graduates received the general diploma in recent years.
Had the requirement been in place in 2016, McCormick explains, it would have reduced Indiana’s graduation rate from 89.1 percent to 76.5 percent, a percentage that “does not reflect well upon our state and could negatively impact our economy.”
“This drastic drop in graduation rate due to a simple, federal definition change will cause confusion, reflect poorly upon all of our communities and our state, and could result in decreased emphasis placed upon those students who may not achieve at least a Core 40 Diploma,” McCormick writes.
The effect would vary considerably by school, with some well-regarded high schools seeing their graduation rate drop to the 60-to-70-percent range. Alternative schools and career academies – like Monroe County’s Academy of Science and Entrepreneurship and Bloomington Graduation School, for example — would see their rates fall even lower. Graduation rates are a factor in calculating state accountability grades for high schools.
About 30 percent of Indiana graduates who earn the general diploma are in special education. Others may be focused on career and technical courses, leaving fewer scheduling options for meeting the requirements of the more rigorous Core 40 or honors diplomas.