Local School District, Parents Seek Graduation Requirement Solutions

Jan 10, 2018

Parents are among those concerned over new graduation requirements approved by the State Board of Education in December. Parents joined other stakeholders in a meeting held at Northwest Allen County Schools Tuesday night.

With passage of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA, the federal graduation rate will only be measured by one diploma. Indiana has four, and as a result the State Board of Education voted in December to add courses on top of the current Core 40 requirements in order to meet federal standards.

This, in turn, could leave little wiggle room in the schedules of students.

Cyndi Niezer is a parent of three NACS students. She says she agrees with what Superintendent Chris Himsel proposed at the meeting: when students graduate from college, everyone walks across the stage. There is no path.

“He said that’s what we are proposing to do: a blanket diploma for every high school student,” said Niezer. “If you meet X requirements, then you graduate.”

Himsel has spoken aggressively against the state’s new requirements. He says they could prevent students who fall behind from taking other courses, like art and music.

“You talk about kids who go through medical issues that are unexpected, you have kids who struggle with courses and have to retake courses for some reason. Those take up schedule slots,” Himsel said.

That’s why parents and the NACS district are supporting Senate Bill 177, proposed by Auburn Republican Dennis Kruse. The bill would streamline the state’s four Graduation Pathways onto a single diploma.

“And then you would get an endorsement or a sticker on your diploma if you got Core 40, you can get a second sticker if you get high academic honors, you can get another one if you have a career technology achievement,” Kruse said of his proposal.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick has publicly endorsed the measure, and Indiana’s Senate GOP has listed adjusting the state diploma system as a priority in 2018.

Niezer added that parents were encouraged at the meeting to call their politicians.

“Please call and give your own anecdotes,” she added. “Please call and give them your own personal story.”

The changes would begin for graduates in 2023, making the current seventh graders the first students to graduate under the proposal.