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. Continue reading
Parents and educators have pushed back for years against attempts to eliminate Indiana’s general high-school diploma, arguing it’s an important option for students who would struggle to earn the more rigorous Core 40 or academic honors diplomas.
Now the federal government has dealt their efforts a blow. Under guidance from the U.S. Department of Education, Indiana will no longer be able to include students who earn the general diploma in calculating school graduation rates.
The change will have an impact on high-school grades, which are partially based on graduation rates. Over 8,600 students earned the general diploma in 2015. That’s 12 percent of high-school graduates.
And for students who struggle to earn the general diploma and likely wouldn’t complete a more rigorous course of study, the change seems to send a message that their efforts aren’t good enough. About 30 percent of students who earn a general diploma are special-needs students.
“The value of the general diploma will be diminished for students who have worked very hard to receive that,” said Sandi Cole, director of the Center on Education and Lifelong Learning at Indiana University and a former high-school special education teacher and department chair.
Indiana schools will still offer the general diploma, and students who earn it can count themselves as high-school graduates. But if the diploma doesn’t figure into accountability, will schools put as much effort into making sure all students earn at least that degree? Continue reading