INDIANAPOLIS — New high school graduation requirements were adopted Wednesday by the Indiana State Board of Education despite calls from school administrators to delay the vote.
In one dramatic moment, about 25 superintendents and principals rose from their auditorium seats to show unity in opposing implementation of the Graduation Pathways recommendations.
Most educators asking for a delay said they did not oppose the concept of realigning requirements, but wanted more specifics on costs and how to administer the program set to first impact the class of 2023, or eighth-graders in the 2018-19 school year.
"The unknowns are what's driving me nuts," Troy Albert, principal at Salem High School, told the board.
"High school is an opportunity for students to experience a whole bunch of things and find their pathway. It's kind of a shotgun approach. What this does is make it a sniper rifle," Albert said.
His current 90 percent graduation rate of 134 students would drop to about 52 percent, or 69 students, if the Pathways standard were applied, he said.
The 7-4 vote capped a nearly seven-hour hearing in front of the full board of education. State Schools Superintendent Jennifer McCormick voted against implementing the plan.
However, board member Vince Bertram, who voted in favor of the plan, suggested it would be better if the board of education passed the plan rather than have it go back and possibly be written by the Indiana General Assembly.
"It may not be as favorable as we could create it on our own," said Bertram, who is president and chief executive officer of Project Lead The Way.
Pathways recommendations are geared to creating a more viable workforce.
The high school graduation requirements were expanded from the current single diploma to three components: a high school diploma; the ability to demonstrate employable skills such as through a work-based or service-based learning experience; and showing readiness for post-secondary work such as passing the SAT or ACT or a locally created pathway, among other options.
A district's local pathway would face state approval.
Educators noted that students would need to determine their career objectives by their junior year.
Scot Croner, superintendent of Wa-Nee Community Schools in Nappanee, called the plan a good start but noted that the state rushed to implement ISTEP. He said, "We'll be back in two years if we don't get it right now."
The recommendations, created by a state advisory panel, are supported by higher education and business representatives.
Paul Perkins, president of Amatrol which offers hands-on training in Jeffersonville, said he supported adding employable skill requirements.
"The number one concern that I hear voiced by every business leader is the lack of employability skills. People don't show up. They don't work well on teams. They lack work ethic," he said.
Kris Wong Davis, vice provost for enrollment management at Purdue University, urged the board to fund SAT and ACT costs and to offer the tests during school hours.
The plan does not eliminate Indiana's general diploma.
Currently, Indiana requires students to complete a Core 40 diploma, but they can opt out for a general diploma if their parents feel they can benefit more than a general diploma. However, the federal government no longer allows general diploma recipients to fit into a state’s graduation rate.
That could have a negative impact on special education students, some educators reiterated Wednesday.