Proposed rule changes what it means to 'graduate' in Indiana

The method used to calculate graduation rates at Indiana high schools could soon change.

A bill introduced in this year's Indiana General Assembly raised concerns that students who earn general diplomas will no longer be counted in schools' graduation rates. Instead, only those who earn a Core 40 or honors diploma would be counted.

However, Rep. Bob Behning — the Indianapolis Republican who authored the measure, House Bill 1384 — said the change isn't optional for Indiana schools. He said it's actually a new federal requirement included in the Every Student Succeeds Act. Congress approved ESSA in 2015, and the law will take full effect in the 2017-18 academic year.

Behning said the federal government wants consistency in the way that states report graduation rates. Therefore, ESSA defines a "regular high school diploma" as "the standard high school diploma awarded to the preponderance of students in the state that is fully aligned with state standards, or a higher diploma."

Indiana's high school graduation rate was 89 percent in the 2015-16 academic year, according to the state Department of Education, and roughly seven out of eight graduates earned a Core 40 or honors diploma.

Earning a Core 40 diploma is a minimum admission requirement for Indiana's four-year universities. Students who don't earn a Core 40 diploma can still graduate with a general diploma if they meet certain requirements.

The House Education Committee, at Behning's request, amended HB 1384 on Thursday to remove the language about changing the definition of graduation. Behning told The Tribune that the language was distracting people from the rest of the bill. He added that he had included the new federal definition to offer context for the bill's other provisions, which also relate to high school graduation.

Read the entire article by @KevinAllenSBT at the South Bend Tribune.