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Jennings County voices diploma concerns

Thanks to Jennings County Farm Bureau and other members who expressed concern, Indiana Farm Bureau is paying close attention to an emerging issue regarding high school diplomas.

The issue focuses around a new federal law that will alter how Indiana calculates graduation rates. The new rule, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), is the replacement for the No Child Left Behind Act and calls for graduation rates to be reported uniformly nationwide. Indiana currently offers four high school diploma options: general, Core 40, Core 40 with academic honors and Core 40 with technical honors.

The ESSA does not recognize the general diploma currently offered. According to an Indianapolis Star article from July 2017, more than 8,600 students in Indiana earned the general diploma in 2016. The article goes on to point out that if the rule had been in place in 2016, the federally reported graduation rate for Indiana would have been 78 percent rather than the 89 percent reported that year.

“We’ve been monitoring the actions of our congressional delegation and the Indiana Department of Education,” said Shelby Swain, INFB associate policy advisor. “We are also partnering with the Indiana Small and Rural Schools Association because they also have concerns regarding the issue.”

At the Statehouse, the Interim Study Committee on Education met to discuss the topic on Oct. 18. Swain said the committee recommended that the IDOE request a waiver from the federal government to allow Indiana to maintain the current diplomas offered. The IDOE has requested that waiver.

Jennings County Farm Bureau submitted a resolution supporting the efforts of the study committee and the IDOE to uphold the validity of the general diploma. The county expressed concerns about potential loss of funding and the efforts students have made toward the general diploma. Members of the INFB resolutions committee joined a conference call to discuss the new policy suggestion on Nov. 15.

The resolutions committee members on the call determined that more research is required before the resolution is adopted into the INFB policy book. They unanimously voted to have the INFB education policy advisory group take steps to learn more about the issue. The group will work to estimate the funding impact on local communities, determine the relevancy of the general diploma and acquire background information on the general diploma such as which schools utilize it the most and the potential impact on our membership.

“The education PAG will investigate the issue to determine the potential impact on rural communities,” Swain said. “They will then determine if any action needs to be taken and how our policy should proceed.”