Holcomb backs proposed graduation standards

GREENFIELD — New high school graduation requirements approved by the state education board, opposed by Indiana’s schools chief, have the support of the governor.

The Indiana State Board of Education approved recommended changes Dec. 6 by a 7-4 vote. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick was among the board members who voted against the proposal, called Graduation Pathways.

State lawmakers still must pass the proposed new requirements, and will take them up after the Indiana General Assembly reconvenes Jan. 3.

The new requirements, which would become effective with the graduating class of 2023, include:

Earning a diploma based on credit requirements from the state

Learning and demonstrating employability skills through project-based, work-based or service-based learning experiences

Requiring students to earn or meet requirements for a range of other assessments, such as the state’s Honors diploma, ACT or SAT exams, an apprenticeship or dual-credit courses

Opponents, including McCormick, said more time was needed to examine the proposals and fine-tune requirements. Opponents also cited concerns about costs involved with implementing the requirements, and the possibility that they will cause graduation rates to tumble.

However, Gov. Eric Holcomb said he thinks the new requirements will help students gain the skills they need for their careers.

“I support the Pathways, and I think it’s critical we have high expectations for our soon-to-be high school graduates. When they leave high school, they have a ticket to their success in their hand, that they’re able to pursue something they’re passionate about,” Holcomb said.

“That requires a pathway leading up to that, and walking across the stage with their diploma. I want that pathway to be lit up for that student so they don’t just have high expectations about their future, but high confidence that they’ll be able to determine their own destiny,” he said.

Using graduation criteria consisting of greater requirements is important, the governor said, because too many Hoosiers lack the education and skills needed to fill many jobs today and jobs of the future. That’s why the state started the Skill Up Indiana! program, Holcomb said. It pays students to enroll in the program, where they learn skills and earn certifications needed in the manufacturing industry so they can potentially be direct hires for companies.

Holcomb noted that 350,000 Hoosier adults do not have a high school diploma, and 742,000 started college but quit. This is at a time when 96,000 jobs are unfilled in key sectors, and the state announced in November another 30,000 jobs coming to the state because of investments by foreign and domestic companies.