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12/4/2017 11:45:00 AM
Proposed formula changes concern local superintendents about high school grad rates
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Rebecca R. Bibbs, Herald Bulletin

FAIRMOUNT – Some local school superintendents are concerned about the negative impact proposed changes in the state’s accountability formula would have on the districts’ graduation rates.

Madison-Grant United School Corp. Superintendent Scott Deetz said based on the proposal, expected to be in effect for the Class of 2023, his district’s graduation rate would drop by 28 percent from 97.7 percent to 69.1 percent.

As a result, he wrote a letter to each member of the State Board of Education, encouraging them to consider the effect of a rushed timeline.

“At Madison-Grant, we attempt to maximize every resource possible, but I truly do not believe these changes, as they are currently proposed, can benefit students or the labor market,” he said in the letter. “I know our story is similar to many other corporations both large and small.”

A Graduation Pathways Panel in early November finalized a three-pronged proposal aimed at ensuring graduates are prepared either for post-secondary education and/or the workplace.

“To account for the rapidly changing, global economy, every K-12 student needs to be given the tools to succeed in some form of quality post-secondary education and training, including an industry recognized certificate program, an associate’s degree program, or a bachelor’s degree program,” the introduction to the panel’s report said.

The new graduation rate formula would require students to meet the credit requirements to receive a diploma, learn and demonstrate employability skills and complete and pass at least one of nine demonstrations of post-secondary readiness, such as an honors diploma, SAT test or apprenticeship.

Local superintendents said it’s the third requirement that would pose the most problems.

Frankton-Lapel Superintendent Bobby Fields said earning the credits and developing employability skills won’t be a problem for Frankton students who can earn career certifications at Hinds Career Center in Elwood and for Lapel students who have similar opportunities at D26 Career Center in Anderson. It also won’t be a problem for those who earn honors diplomas.

But there are many general diploma students who may not be college-bound, haven’t been placed in a vocational program and unlikely to take or pass a high-stakes exam like the SAT or ACT, he said.

“What they’ve been talking about, they are pretty high scores. You have to get pretty high scores to satisfy that benchmark,” he said. “As they come in, we’re definitely going to have them on some career path, graduation pathway when they start high school.”

Still, Fields said he’s not too worried.

“It’s just a new set of rules all the kids are going to have to play by. They have time to map out their graduation pathway,” he said.

Though he estimates his graduation rate also would take a dive of about 20 percent if applied to the Class of 2017, Fields said it’s not as if his would be the only district where that would occur.

“I’m not really worried about it. We’re all going to be in the same boat. It’s not like our graduation rate will drop down to 70 percent, and everybody else’s will be at 95 percent.”

Anderson Community Schools’ interim Superintendent Timothy Smith agreed almost all districts would experience a decline. He calculated ACS’s graduation rate would drop from 95 percent to about 70 percent under the proposal.

But that doesn’t make the proposal less worrisome, he said.

“It gives the perception that you are not doing very well with your kids when you’re still preparing and promoting them as being college and career ready,” he said. “To me the bigger problem is the perception when you drop from 95 percent to 75 percent. It’s that public perception what are you doing wrong? There’s already a lot of scrutiny on the schools anyway.”

Changing the formula doesn’t really change the number of students receiving diplomas, Smith said.

“We may walk the same number of kids across the stage with diplomas in their hands. It may look like we’re doing less when we’re really not.”

Related Stories:
• EDITORIAL: Preparing our students for more than just workforce
• Local officials wary of graduation rules
• Indiana high school graduation proposal: College, career skills required
• New high school graduation requirements approved by Indiana education board
• EDITORIAL: Graduation criteria leave questions unanswered

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