You’ve heard of Lake Wobegon, where all the children are above average. Welcome to Indiana, where the children need to be average or above to earn a high-school diploma.
That may be where we’re heading with the recommendations approved Tuesday by the Graduation Pathways Panel and sent to the State Board of Education for consideration. The board could approve the recommendations – a significant change in what it takes to earn a diploma – on Dec. 6.
Panel members say their plan will expand access by creating more pathways that students can follow to graduate. What they don’t say is that each pathway includes barriers that could prevent some students from reaching the goal.
- Students can qualify via the SAT or ACT exam, but only if their scores meet “college-ready benchmarks,” nearly the average for college-bound test takers.
- They can qualify by getting a passing score on a military enlistment test, but today’s all-volunteer military doesn’t admit just anyone.
- They can qualify by passing at least three dual-credit, Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate courses, but they need at least a C grade.
Those are among the options for meeting the requirement that students demonstrate “college and career-ready competencies.” They can also get over the bar by earning an honors diploma or meeting career and technical education requirements.
Graduates will also have to complete the usual 40 semester-credits of high school courses and fulfill requirements for “applied learning experiences,” which can include after-school jobs, extracurricular leadership roles, community service, capstone experiences or certain projects.
High-school principals and counselors have been raising concerns about these requirements to the Graduation Pathways Panel and the State Board of Education. In particular, they have worried that special-needs students may struggle to graduate.
In fact, 12.6 percent of the state’s 2016 graduates did not meet any of the proposed “college and career-ready” requirements and would not have received degrees under the new requirements, according to an analysis by the Indiana Department of Education. The requirements would take effect for 2023 graduates, so students, counselors and schools would have a few years to up their game.
The idea behind the process, initiated by the state legislature, is to provide diverse options for earning a diploma and better align them with the expectations of colleges and employers. It also matches Gov. Eric Holcomb’s 2018 legislative agenda, released today, which says all students should graduate “set on a pathway that prepares them for college, career training or a quality job.”
That sounds great on paper. You could say the pathways are paved with good intentions. And there’s a saying about where such a road can sometimes lead.