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Hoosier students may soon need to meet new graduation requirements

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The requirements for high school diplomas could soon be changing for Hoosier students. A special panel approved new graduation pathways Tuesday afternoon. Now, the Indiana State Board of Education must review the proposed changes.

The panel was established to help teenagers become prepared for life after graduation day.

"There’s such a gap between post-secondary readiness, whether that’s going to college or going to a job," said Byron Ernest, Chair of the Graduation Pathways Committee and member of the INSBOE.

Indiana education leaders are hoping to bridge that gap, starting with the class of 2023. Ernest said the recommendations would provide students with a "diploma plus." The panel, made up of board members, the state superintendent and lawmakers, met several times before approving its final recommendations.

"These options and flexibility give schools the ability to really individualize for the student," Ernest said.

The recommendations list three areas students must satisfy to graduate: learn and demonstrate employability skills, post-secondary ready competencies and high school diploma.

In order to demonstrate employability skills, students can get an after school job or participate in meaningful volunteer experiences.

Teenagers will also be required to show they are ready for post-secondary life. The options for students include taking the SAT or getting an industry certificate.

Students will still have to meet the current high school diploma standards.

While many see the benefits in creating more options for students, there have been some concerns about the timeline for the changes.

"Let’s make sure we take a look at what’s happening inside of our schools so we know what the true implications are," said Jeff Butts, Superintendent for MSD of Wayne Township and President of the Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents.

Butts said districts across the state studied the recommendations and estimated they would see a 15 to 30 percent drop in their graduation rates if the changes went to effect today.

Previous recommendation drafts stated the class of 2022 would be the first to face the new requirements. The final draft changed that to the class of 2023.

"Taking our time and pushing this back to 2023 as they recommended today is a good move," Butts said. "It gives us chance to really digest what recommendations are going to be."

Ernest said he believes schools will rise to the challenge to give gives many more options.

The INSBOE is expected to vote on this issue next month. It is still unclear how much it would cost to make the changes.