Indiana offers four high school diploma options: General, Core 40, Core 40 with Academic Honors (AHD) or Core 40 with Technical Honors (THD). According to the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE):
The Indiana General Assembly made completion of Core 40 a graduation requirement for all students beginning with those who entered high school in the fall of 2007. The legislation includes an opt-out provision for parents who determine their students could receive a greater benefit from the General Diploma. The legislation also made Core 40 a minimum college admission requirement for the state’s public four-year universities beginning in the fall of 2011.
Recently the U.S. Department of Education announced thousands of General diplomas will not count towards Indiana graduation rates. This affects approximately 8,600 Hoosier families. The 8,600 diplomas that will no longer count will decrease Indiana’s graduation rate from 90 percent to approximately 76 percent. Graduation rates are used to help calculate each school’s grade. The lower graduation rates could cause a traditional public school to face state intervention, charter schools to face nonrenewal, and private schools to face caps on scholarships and vouchers. This would adversely affect children and families across the state of Indiana.
How will IDOE or schools react to this change? Will IDOE eliminate General diplomas to force students to obtain a Core 40 diploma? If General diplomas are still an option in the future, despite the new federal regulations, will schools steer parents away from opting their children out of the Core 40 diploma for the General diploma, even if the General diploma is the best fit for that child?
Currently Indiana’s congressional delegation has requested adjustment time from U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy Devos. Pausing the legislation would give Indiana lawmakers and school administration time to adjust the state’s diploma requirements without schools being penalized.
As a parent, I know all children are different. Four years ago when my twins started high school, they chose a diploma track and all four years their classes have reflected their Core 40 and Honors Diploma goals, but there are many special needs children who are able to experience high school graduation because the General diploma exists. I hope Indiana does not eliminate the general diploma to maintain graduation rates. My hope is the U.S. Department of Education will work with Indiana and other states to build a model of accountability that doesn’t negatively affect our children’s education.