The Indiana senate has filed a bill that aims to solve the state’s high school diploma dilemma by combining its four current diplomas into one.
Over the summer, Indiana learned from federal officials that the state’s general diploma would no longer count when it reports its total number of graduates to the federal government. About 12 percent of students across the state earn a general diploma, which has fewer requirements than the standard Core 40 diploma. It is typically earned by students who struggle academically or those with disabilities.
The announcement sent off alarm bells for schools, many of which would see their number of graduates drop under the new federal law, known as the Every Student Succeeds Act. While honors diplomas and those with more requirements would still count, those with fewer—like the general diploma—would not. The federal requirement is based on the diploma that most students receive, the Core 40.
Sen. Dennis Kruse, the Republican chairman of the Senate Education Committee who authored Senate Bill 177, said the bill is “a good thing for students” and “won’t hurt anyone academically.” It would have the Indiana State Board of Education create one Indiana diploma that has three “distinctions”: Core 40, Core 40 academic honors, and Core 40 technical honors. The distinctions are, in effect, what were previously separate Indiana diplomas.
The proposal has the full support of state Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick and will likely allay concerns from educators across the state, many of whom have been speaking out about the issue for months.
“We are pleased Senator Kruse is addressing the issues surrounding the future of Indiana’s high school diploma,” McCormick said in a written statement. “If passed, Senate Bill 177 will result in a fair and accurate reflection of school and student performance.”
For now, students can still earn any of the four diplomas the state offers and be considered high school graduates. If passed, the bill would take effect in July.
Chalkbeat Indiana is a not-for-profit news site covering educational change in public schools.