Indiana Board Derails Graduation Requirement Proposal


(Photo: Flickr, Creative Commons)

Indiana Governor Mike Pence's (R) plan to restructure high school to either workforce training or a college preparatory track has been sidelined during his first term in office.

The State Board of Education has decided this week to postpone high school diploma alterations focused on "college and career-ready" status, writes Dan Carden, reporting for The Times of Northwest Indiana.

The value of or need for such high school graduation requirements, however, is not convincing, according to board member Sarah O'Brian, who listened to over two hours of cynical testimony from experts and the public.

The proposal was authored by a committee made up of members of the Indiana Career Council. It requires that beginning in 2018, students starting high school take four years of mathematics and other mandatory courses, such as Preparing for College and Careers and Personal Financial Responsibility, as well as finishing a career experience "capstone."

Those opposed to the proposal disagree that additional math classes would be beneficial to average math learners. Usually, it is thought to be better for these students to learn fundamental concepts rather than spending time trying to pass more rigorous courses.

More time on additional mandatory classes would also diminish time for courses such as fine arts, foreign languages and other electives that might be life-changing options for some learners, say teachers.

This year's high school graduating class will be the first to be exposed to earlier revisions made to graduation requirements. The state will analyze information from this group before discussing the reforms again, writes Chelsea Schneider for the IndyStar.

It was expected that the state board would have acted on the proposal in April, but the execution of the changes had already been delayed by a year and would have begun with the freshman class of 2019-2020.

Even the names of the diploma pathways have faced many iterations. "College and Career Ready" and "Workforce Ready" were deemed unacceptable because they could define students' futures. The latest names, Core 44, requiring 44 credits or more, Core 40 (a general diploma), and an honors recognition diploma are more like descriptions of current offerings. The proposed changes were part of a state law passed by the Indiana General Assembly in 2014 to "study" the idea of new diplomas.

Purdue University Vice Provost for Enrollment Management Pam Horne declared that the current Core 40 diploma is not sufficiently preparing thousands of the state's students for college. She added that most high school young people want to attend college, but "aspiration without effective preparation is a false promise."

WBAA Public Radio, in a broadcast by Claire McInerny, reports that many at the board meeting were concerned about the addition of math credits. The problem, they explained, was whether smaller schools could afford or even find enough teachers to ensure that pupils can attain those credits.

The vote by the board was unanimous. State Superintendent Glenda Ritz said this would allow for more time to study the plan.

"So I think a lot of the conversation revolves around getting information on mathematics," Ritz says. "And that will start to drive the conversation I think more on the diploma on what we might want to do and how we might want to make that work."

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