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State pushes ahead with new diploma proposal despite educator concerns

A man in a red dress shirt and plaid tie stands behind a podium and speaks into a microphone.
Indiana Department of Education
John Hurley addressed the Indiana State Board of Education on Wednesday. He said most students fall somewhere between the state's proposed diplomas.

The state is moving forward with new high school graduation requirements, even as Indiana educators urge caution and patience. Educators from around the state continued to express their concerns about the new requirements to state officials on Wednesday.

The Indiana Department of Education wants to sunset the current Core 40, academic and technical honors diplomas and replace them with two new versions — the GPS and GPS Plus.

Educators say the GPS diploma has too few requirements and the GPS Plus has too many. John Hurley, a teacher at South Spencer High School in Rockport, said the new diplomas will widen achievement gaps.

“The majority of our students would fit between the two proposed models,” he said. “Therefore, students have a choice of a lower-rigor diploma or a nearly unattainable higher level.”

Students who achieve the GPS Plus diploma would be required to complete at least 75 hours of work-based learning, 650 hours at a modern youth apprenticeship or 2,000 hours at a U.S. Department of Labor registered apprenticeship.

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Under the proposed changes, students can also receive an academic seal that shows they are prepared for employment, military enlistment or postsecondary enrollment. Each seal will be developed with help from organizations in each area.

Educators say colleges may find the new diplomas confusing — causing Indiana students to miss out on competitive university spots.

Randy Studt teaches German at West Lafayette High School. He said he wants his students to continue their educations, but he is worried they will be overlooked due to the new diplomas.

“These diploma tracks are going to be inadequate for the students, for my students to be able to attend the world-class university, Purdue, that sits three blocks from my building,” he said. “It’s going to make it more difficult.”

Educators urged the department to keep the academic honors diploma and allow students more flexibility to explore different paths.

Indiana Secretary of Education Katie Jenner said the IDOE will continue to listen to feedback and make adjustments to the proposal.

Kirsten is our education reporter. Contact her at kadair@wfyi.org or follow her on Twitter at @kirsten_adair.

Kirsten the Indiana Public Broadcasting education reporter. Contact her at kadair@wfyi.org or follow her on Twitter at @kirsten_adair.