Lawmakers work to prevent drop in graduation rates due to federal changes

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – State lawmakers are taking action to stop graduation rates from falling at schools across the state. A bill now making its way through the statehouse was authored in response to new federal regulations that change the way graduates are counted.

We first told you about this issue last summer. The federal change means any Indiana student graduating with a general diploma would not be tallied into the graduation rate, which is used for school A-F accountability grades. In some districts like Brown County, more than 40 percent of students earn a general diploma.

Senate Bill 177 hopes to fix the problem by creating just one diploma, known as the Indiana diploma, for all Hoosiers. Distinctions on the diploma would be available for those who achieve the Core 40, honors or other curriculum levels.

“This is a good thing for our students,” said Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn. “It doesn’t hurt students and doesn’t hurt funding here in Indiana.”

At Lawrence North High School, senior students just started their final semester. Graduation is on the minds of many. If nothing is done, some of them would not actually count as graduates even after walking across the stage in the spring.

“It would drastically impact us,” said Brett Crousore, principal at Lawrence North. “It would impact the property values of our constituents.”

He said only counting the more rigorous Core 40 diploma would exclude the efforts of students who face certain obstacles.

“For example, Lawrence North High School has a 93, almost 94, percent graduation rate that would drop down around 15 percent,” Crousore said. “I think we are sending the wrong message.”

He said he’s talked to other principals and they are aware that a state-level fix is in the works.

Superintendent of Public Education Jennifer McCormick voiced her support for the bill. She released a statement saying: “If passed, Senate Bill 177 would results in a fair and accurate reflection of school and student performance. While recent diploma concerns were created as a result of federal action, the senator’s bill will keep the general diploma intact.”

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