McCormick Responds To New Federal Graduation Rate Requirements

Jul 12, 2017

A new federal education law would make thousands of diplomas known as general diplomas no longer count toward a school’s graduation rate. It’s a move that Indiana’s schools chief says “blindsided” the state.

“Obviously the state recognizes those diplomas, employers are recognizing those diplomas,” says Jennifer McCormick, Indiana superintendent of public instruction. “This will just make it more problematic.”

A new federal education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act, requires states to report graduation rates in a uniform manner. The rule change means Indiana’s least rigorous diploma, the general diploma, would no longer count in graduation rates.

Low graduation rates can hurt a school’s rating and lead to state intervention. About 8,600 students received a general diploma last year.

McCormick says her department is looking for ways so schools won’t see graduation rates plummet, affecting how the their state rankings.

“It does us no good in the meantime to have high schools that are identified as Fs,” McCormick says. “That doesn’t benefit students, that doesn’t benefit communities.”

As we’ve reported, graduation rates will now be calculated using only Core 40 – a state diploma aimed at students who want to go on to four-year colleges or professional fields – and International Baccalaureate diplomas.

The Indiana General Assembly made completion of Core 40 a graduation requirement for all students beginning in the fall of 2007. The legislation includes an opt-out provision for parents who determine their students could receive a greater benefit from the general diploma.

General diplomas require fewer math, social studies and science credits. And less testing. The general diploma doesn’t qualify students for state colleges.

This move comes as graduation rates and requirements are getting a renewed look by state officials. At a Wednesday Indiana state board of education meeting, the state panel voted to create a group tasked with creating new graduation pathways, despite controversy few educators are enlisted.

A state law passed earlier this year requires officials to develop new ways high school students can get a diploma. Proposed measures could include taking career and technical education classes or passing state exams.