SOUTH WHITLEY — The pursuit of a more highly prepared graduate is always a worthy goal, however, Graduation Pathways (GP) being proposed by a state panel to the State School Board puts roadblocks up for those students who struggle to get over the finish line and desperately need their high school diploma to have a productive life.

Students most affected by this policy will prove to be students, including those with Special Needs, who sometimes struggle to attain their High School diploma, but nonetheless succeed in the current system.

The Gen Ed Diploma, as it is more commonly referred to, might be eliminated entirely based on the GP policy. And because it is no longer offered as an option, CORE 40 would become the base level for achieving a diploma. This produces a problem for students who already struggle to achieve the Gen Ed, by now requiring them to achieve an even higher degree of difficulty CORE 40 diploma.

In addition, students must also meet requirements above and beyond the current requirements for graduation. These additions create problems in implementation for the schools. More importantly, though, they create likely roadblocks for the students who are most at risk of graduating.

“As an A rated school we know this policy is going to negatively affect our school grade, but this is not about school grades. And this is not just a Whitko issue, this is a state issue. This is about what is best for our kids!” explained a passionate Whitko High School Principal John Snyder.

The state board website explains the purpose of Graduation Pathways is to “create an educated and talented workforce able not just to meet the needs of business and higher education, but able to succeed in all post-secondary endeavors.” Yet the solution is not fitting of the problem they have identified across the state.

Snyder disagrees. “This is the wrong solution for an issue we all care about,” he said. Rather than boosting graduation rates and increasing the quality of an individual’s education, students will be forced into scenarios, or “pathways,” that drastically reduce the ability for many to graduate. For a school like Whitko, GP would have reduced their graduation rate from over 92% to a mere 63.7% graduation rate.

“We will, of course, implement whatever changes necessary to improve the chances of our students earning their diploma; however, this plan puts roadblocks in the paths of many students rather than creating realistic and beneficial pathways,” Snyder said.

In terms of real students, graduation rates will drop across the state.

The intended consequence of GP is that students are more college and career ready. The clear unintended consequences are that there will be a higher number of students who are not able to earn a High School Diploma. That is not good for the students, their families or the community.

Furthermore, the policy fails to adequately and realistically address the needs of those who may not pursue higher education and may choose instead to enter the workforce directly following high school.

“Just because you don’t go to college or have an industrial certificate yet doesn’t mean you can’t have a successful life,” Snyder said. “In terms of having kids prepared, we always want our kids to graduate high school prepared for the next step, but [Graduation Pathways] are using a sledgehammer to drive in a thumb tack and they make the problem worse.”

The leadership at Whitko is encouraging everyone inside and outside of their school’s district to take action against the GP policy.

“The parent voice is always more powerful than an educator’s voice. This is going to affect your children. Is this something you want your children to have to deal with? There is power in numbers and we need all stakeholders to flood the phones, emails, and post offices to voice your concerns about this policy,” explained Snyder who is unified within the Whitko leadership including principals, the superintendent, and the School Board.

At the Nov. 20 Whitko school board meeting, Superintendent Steve Clason made a presentation encouraging the community to reach out to the Indiana State Board of Education immediately to tell them that the Whitko Community disagrees with the Graduation Pathways Policy.

To call, email, or write individual Indiana Board of Education members regarding the Graduation Pathways Policy prior to November 29th use the contact info below. In addition, it is advised to also contact your General Assembly representatives to voice concerns.

Indiana State Board of Education

143 W. Market St., Suite 500

Indianapolis, IN 46204

(317) 232-2000