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Experts: Expected Drop In HS Graduation Rate Not That Significant

A hand holding a white piece of paper rolled in a scroll with a blue ribbon.

Photo: Coordenação Proerd Go/Flickr

The Every Student Succeeds Act changes the requirements for getting a high school diploma.

Indiana’s high school graduation rate is expected to drop significantly when new federal guidelines take effect at the end of this school year. But some education experts say that’s not as bad as it sounds.

The Every Student Succeeds Act changes the requirements for getting a high school diploma.

Under the federal law, thousands of general diplomas would no longer count. General diplomas require fewer math, social studies and science credits – and less testing.

The change could decrease the state’s graduation rate by as much as 12 percent.

Every Student Succeeds Act

The majority of Indiana high school students already complete a diploma that meets the new requirements. Senior Research and Policy Advisor Jennifer DePaoli says that should be the focus.

“Yes, Indiana may end up seeing a drop in their graduation rate, but what the state is doing to ensure students have that higher-level diploma is what we think states should be doing,” DePaoli says.

DePaoli worked on a new report from the education policy research institute Civic Enterprises. The report finds Indiana has one of the highest graduation rates in the nation.

State officials don’t oppose the new requirements, but some are worried about the impact on the graduation rate.

Indiana’s congressional delegation is asking the federal government to give the state more time to prepare before the change takes effect.

DePaoli says graduation rates are important and the significant drop will cause a dramatic reaction, but, “I think it’s really important that lawmakers and leaders in ed in Indiana don’t use that as an excuse to lower standards,” she says. “That’s not what we want to see, and in fact we wish more states would jump onto what Indiana is doing rather than vice versa.”

Graduation Gaps

The report says Indiana has one of the highest high school graduation rates in the nation. Just over 87 percent of Indiana high school students get a diploma. But the state still has significant graduation gaps for certain groups of students.

Nationwide, low-income students graduate at much lower rates than their peers. The report says Indiana has the smallest gap between those two groups compared to every other state.

But the report also says the state is on par with the rest of the country when it comes to other minority groups.

Those groups with lower graduation rates include African-American students, students with disabilities and English Language learners.

More than one-third of those Indiana students don’t graduate.

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