Pathways put focus on career, not ISTEP

By LEANN BURKE
lburke@dcherald.com

Jasper High School Guidance Counselor Sean Jochum is excited for the new graduation requirements for Indiana students.

The requirements, dubbed Graduation Pathways by the Indiana Department of Education, still require students to earn a high school diploma through coursework, but they eliminate passing the 10th grade ISTEP test as a graduation requirement and replace it with demonstrated employability skills and post-secondary readiness. Students have a multitude of options for how to meet the two new requirements.

“It allows kids to focus on a career pathway,” Jochum said. “That’s the best thing we’ve seen for our kids in a long time.”

This year’s eighth-graders — the class of 2023— will be the first class to graduate fully under the Graduation Pathways requirements.

The IDOE has an entire webpage dedicated to Graduation Pathways, which can be found at www.doe.in.gov/graduation-pathways. According to that page, options for the post-secondary readiness requirement include: earning an Academic Honors diploma; earning high scores on the SAT, ACT or military ASVAB exams; graduating with an industry-recognized certification or apprenticeship; earning a C average in at least three advanced-placement or dual-credit classes; or passing at least six credits in a career and technical education concentration, such as business, health care or welding.

For the employability skills portion, students must complete a project, service or work requirement that teaches the Indiana Department of Workforce Development’s Employability Skills Benchmarks, which include skills such as time management, self-confidence and organization. Being involved in a service club that requires volunteer work in the community could fulfill the requirement, Jochum said, as could a part-time job, provided the employer signs a form stating the student demonstrates the skills.

“They’re very receptive,” Jochum said of local employers. “It’s good for them because they’re targeting certain skills they want [employees] to have.”

Although current high school students can use the Graduation Pathways requirements, the program is still new. The IDOE released the most recent 50-page directive on the program in July, giving guidance counselors a matter of weeks to review it before school started. Still, schools have embraced and implemented the new requirements where they can.

At Heritage Hills High School, for example, students who have chosen to use Graduation Pathways have been able to count career and technical education classes that teach employability skills toward that requirement. In the next couple weeks, the school wants to expand opportunities in that category to include some part-time jobs and service work.

“We’ve been really careful with following the (Indiana) Department of Education’s requirements,” guidance counselor Ashley Tempel said.

So far, Graduation Pathways has been used mostly by students who haven’t passed the 10th-grade ISTEP exam. At Jasper High School, Jochum said, Graduation Pathways has helped 80 students in this year’s senior class. In the past, Jochum said, students who didn’t pass the ISTEP had to take remedial classes, and seniors who failed to pass the test had to graduate with an ISTEP waiver, which reflected poorly on schools.

Now, instead of taking remedial classes for the ISTEP exam, students can take classes that focus on their career goals.

“They can take classes that mean something to them,” Jochum said. “It makes them better students and more engaged in their education.”




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