High schoolers have new paths to graduation


County high School students will have more graduation options starting this year, if they want them. Old requirements that include passing the state’s ISTEP test are on the way out, and new ones that give kids more choices are coming in.

The new Indiana graduation requirements will be fully implemented with the class of 2023 — who will be eighth-graders this coming school year — but in the meantime, current high schoolers who struggle with testing can opt-in to follow a new “Graduation Pathways” graduation path this school year. Tina Fawks, principal at Northeast Dubois High School, said the change could affect an eighth or more of the school’s 71-member senior class who have not yet met the testing requirement.

Fawks said at Tuesday night’s Northeast Dubois School Board meeting that she likes the changes because they ditch requiring success on a test for a list of options that measure success in other ways. Plus, it keeps the kids from having to retest throughout the school year, which she said can pull them away from other courses that are more beneficial to them.

“Our students who don’t pass ISTEP, it’s not that they don’t deserve a diploma and don’t have the skills to go out and work or go to school,” Fawks said.

The Graduation Pathways requirements include earning the credits required for a high school diploma; participating in a project-based, service-based or work-based experience; and demonstrating post-secondary competencies by completing one of a long list of options.

Some of these options include earning an honors diploma, netting a state- and industry- recognized certification or credential or earning a C average or higher in at least six credits in a career-technical education career sequence.

And passing tests is still rewarded, as students can meet college-ready benchmarks on the ACT or SAT exams and U.S. military benchmarks on the ASVAB test to satisfy that post-secondary experience requirement. It’s just not the only way for the kids to earn the right to graduate.

The new option will be offered to students at Northeast Dubois High School, Jasper High School, and Forest Park High School. Representatives from Southridge High School and Heritage Hills High School could not immediately be reached for comment this morning.

Brian Wilson, Jasper High School principal, said in an email that the Graduation Pathways will be used primarily for students who have not yet passed the ISTEP test.

Fawks admitted she was leery of the pathways when they still required the testing, but credited the panel who assembled it with creating paths that every student can use to graduate.

“I’m glad to see you have something coming down the pipe that you feel excited about instead of dreading,” Mary Pankey, Northeast Dubois School Board President, said to Fawks at Tuesday night’s meeting.

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