Indiana education officials propose new high school diplomas for students

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana education officials unveiled a proposal this week that could bring major changes to the Hoosier state’s high school diploma requirements for years to come.

Indiana Secretary of Education Dr. Katie Jenner said the proposal involves creating two new high school diplomas: the first option is the “Indiana GPS diploma”, which education officials described as a more flexible version of the traditional high school diploma, also known as the Core 40 diploma. The second option is the “Indiana GPS Diploma Plus”, which focuses on work-based learning requirements.

The Indiana Department of Education explained that the idea behind the proposal is to enable young Hoosier students for post-graduation life regardless of whether they decide to pursue more education by enrolling in college, pursuing skills training, or entering the workforce immediately after high school.

The redesigned diplomas would work in tandem with Indiana’s current version of graduation pathways in addition to the Indiana Graduate Prepared to Succeed (Indiana GPS), IDEO said.

”Let’s expose them to that career potential, let’s see if they like it in high school,” said Jenner while discussing the proposal. “Let’s connect them with business leaders who maybe in that sector, but really light that fire of purpose earlier than what we’re doing right now.”

Students who opted into the proposed Indiana GPS Diploma would be required to complete at least 20 additional points which can be earned through various courses and experiences. IDEO said this would supplement the individual graduation plan, which students are already required to complete while in middle school.

For students pursuing the proposed Indiana GPD Diploma Plus, the state will impose a new requirement involving the completion of coursework “necessary to earn their chosen credential of value, as well as complete a high-quality work-based learning experience.”

The changes would also feature an overhaul of the learning responsibilities placed on students in the 9th and 10th grades, which would be “strategically focused on essential knowledge and skills” via a collection of foundational courses, according to IDOE. This will add more flexibility for students to pursue their unique academic journies in 11th and 12 grades regardless of which diploma type they earn.

Jenner added that the changes would mark the first time the state has changed its high school diploma structure since the 1980s.

”There are absolutely components that are meaningful for our high school students, and there are also components that we need to modernize. Does every student in our country need to have the same 30 to 40 classes and should we realize what the student’s purpose and path may be?”

IDOE said stakeholders identified five characteristics that are important for graduates following extensive public input. These include: academic mastery, career and postsecondary readiness (credentials and experiences), communication and collaboration, work ethic, and civic, financial and digital literacy.

If the proposal is approved, it will go into effect in 2029, meaning Indiana’s current graduation requirements would become void on Oct. 1, 2028, with schools being able to join in after completing Board rule-making.

IDOE noted that these proposed changes would not affect its offering of the federally mandated alternate diploma program, which offers alternative options for students with cognitive disabilities.

IDOE’s full presentation on the proposed high school diploma changes can be viewed here.

“The reality is, the structure of the American high school experience has not changed for most students in over one-hundred years. In Indiana, our current high school diploma has not been significantly updated since the late 1980s,” a statement on IDOE’s website said. “While some aspects of the current high school experience work, many others are long outdated. To better prepare our students for the future, we must allow them the flexibility to experience work-based learning, earn a credential, and personalize their journey to achieve their unique goals.”

Dr. Jenner said two public comment periods will take place over the next four months. The governor and attorney general will provide the final approval for the proposal. Citizens can also provide their input online using IDOE’s Jotform.

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