Roeder: Questions unanswered on changes to require testing, extracurricular and work to graduate

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What does it take to graduate from high school in Indiana?

That depends on what grade you are in each year when the state board of education tampers with the graduation requirements.

Well, they did it once again.

Last week the a state board panel voted 7-4 to require students to complete additional coursework, demonstrate employability skills through service or work projects, or meet the SAT or ACT required scores.

During last year’s legislative session, the Indiana General Assembly approved creating a Graduation Pathways Panel to establish graduation pathway recommendations.

Rising Sun school superintendent Branden Roeder spent four days in Indianapolis as 64 people testified. “Ninety percent of the people were against it,” Roeder reported. “The only ones for it were businesses.There are more questions than answers.”

The diploma and grad exam has changed the last four years. This year’s juniors graduation will be based on ISTEP, sophomores on ECA and freshmen ISTEP, says Roeder.

The current seventh graders (Class of 2023) will be affected if the new plan is implemented.

Roeder’s biggest concern with the Gateway Pathways is for special needs students (16 percent of Rising Sun enrollment).

The plan has three boxes. Box one deals with the diploma. It would mean every student would need a Core 40 diploma.

“It has to be a general diploma,” Roeder contends. “I would be a lot more at ease than I am now. I can’t make it work without taking down the rigor in the classroom. I can work with the other two boxes.”

Another box is the test mandate. “Nobody ever liked the ECA,” he adds. “If they didn’t pass they were stuck in remediation… which put them behind in other courses.”

If they replace it with the ACT, SAT and ASVAB, students classified as average may not able to meet graduation mark.

ASVAB is a free test that could be given multiple times, explains Roeder. It is a military test but they set the passing mark at 50 (currently 32).

Indiana State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Dr. Jennifer McCormick knows the SAT costs will be $10 million.

The exact cutoff numbers are not known.

Roeder contends legislators are driven by a study which called the education system a Nation at Risk and promoted by Milton Friedman in the 1990s. The U.S. was rank 19th.

United States standards are driven toward academic work based learning while other countries are driven to the test. Our standards are better and can offer fine arts to make a well rounded student and college material at high school age, contends Roeder.

He sees a disparity between rich and poor with the ACT or SAT requirement. The state would fund SAT or ACT one time, according to Roeder. However, it would be the only time free and reduced lunch students could afford to take the test which costs $160 to $200.

Roeder shared a Forbes magazine article asking what are we doing with education. The article shows the tracking of students is about the only thing improving.

Extracurricular activities and after school employment are being tied to the grad requirement.

Roeder adds that students with an IEP (Individualized Education Program) have to be provided transportation to work or the school could be sued.

One possibility is an internship program which Roeder says he has discussed with a local business. However, many would have to bus kids to internships in Dearborn County where priority would be given to their students.

“It puts rural schools at a disadvantage,”

What’s it going to cost the state and local transportation funds?

The funding isn’t clear but Roeder doesn’t see additional money being put into education. He contends they will take the $30 million which was given as a stipend ($400-$500). to teachers.

In addition, Eli Lily presented a $30,000 grant for counseling and, although there is a lack of counselors, they are putting more services on counselors and takes away from helping students with social, emotional and other issues.

Roeder hopes the legislation comes in and says this wasn’t our intent and asks the board to readdress the issue.

“Its a trend throughout the country but none of this is research based,” according to Roeder. “We’re going to use our kids as guinea pigs. It’s upsetting but public schools in Indiana are used to it.”