State Proposing Changes to Indiana High School Diploma Structure

Indiana’s high school diploma options, and the number and types of classes students must take to graduate with a diploma, could be changing as the state explores new requirements to earn a diploma.  The decisions being made over the next several months regarding diplomas will have a significant impact on the lives of students, including students with special needs.

The Arc has been closely monitoring this issue and continues to discuss with key decision makers the importance of providing a path for students receiving special education services
to earn a diploma rather than being issued a certificate of completion.

Indiana currently offers four types of high school diplomas.

  • General
  • Core 40
  • Academic Honors
  • Technical Honors

However, it is important to note that not all school corporations offer the General diploma. Many families report that early on in their child’s education they have been required to make a decision as to whether or not their child is on the Core 40 diploma track or a track to receive a certificate of completion.  In the 2015 session of the Indiana General Assembly, The Arc worked to pass House Bill 1194, which requires schools to inform families of students with special needs of all the state’s diploma options.  However, it did not fix the problem of schools simply not offering the General diploma.

As part of the Indiana Career Council, the Core 40 subcommittee was established to make recommendations to the State Board of Education, including:

  • Changing course requirements for the Core 40 diploma
  • Changing the types of diplomas offered
  • Analyzing the need or a Career Technical Education (CTE) diploma and/or
    CTE offerings

After meeting over the past few months, the subcommittee has proposed the following changes to Indiana’s high school diploma options.  The proposed changes would:

  • Combine the two honors diplomas
  • Replace the Core 40 diploma with a new College and Career Ready diploma
  • Replace the General diploma with a new Workforce Ready diploma

The new College and Career Ready diploma would require at least 44 credits, up from 40. Students would be required to take more math, science, and social studies classes and two new classes – career preparation and financial literacy – would be added as mandatory classes.

The Workforce Ready diploma, among other changes, would require 6-8 credits in Math, up from the 4 currently required for a General diploma.  Parents and the high school principal would be required to approve students choosing the Workforce Ready diploma.

In the article “Indiana’s high school diplomas are about to get an overhaul,” in the education news publication “Chalkbeat,” Teresa Lubbers, the head of the Indiana Commission for Higher Education, stated that the Workforce Ready diploma is not meant for the majority of students. “Close to 90 percent of kids get the college and career ready diploma or honors,” Lubbers said. “So we are talking less than 10 percent there.”

The timeline has been to finalize proposed changes by December, present them to the General Assembly in the 2016 legislative session, and, if adopted by the General Assembly, enact the new diploma structure in the 2018-2019 school year.

The Arc High School Diploma Survey

The Arc recently conducted a survey of families, students, professionals and advocates regarding high school diplomas to gather their input.

Of the 449 respondents, 56% were family members, nearly 43% of whom had a child with special needs between the ages of 6-14 and 33% between the ages of 14-18.

94% of the respondents agreed that students receiving special education services should be provided a diploma option if he or she can demonstrate progress on individualized education goals.

Anybody who is able to learn despite their limitations deserves a recognition and an opportunity like the people who don’t have disabilities.

They are doing work, why shouldn’t they be allowed the same reward as other students?

Why should meeting IEP goals be treated any different than a general education or honors student completing their goals for a diploma?

96% of the respondents said all Indiana school corporations should be required to offer all diplomas offered by the state.

There needs to be consistency across the state on this.

By not offering the general education diploma and pushing the certificate of completion option on our kids, the schools deny them good jobs and further education.

A student should not be denied a fully authorized diploma recognized by the state simply because of where they live.

Over 76% of the respondents said that Indiana’s current diploma structure does not allow students enrolled in special education programs to explore their areas of interest and help them choose a career path.

I have (people I serve) who are not able to get a job in the career they would like due to not having a diploma.  The certificate of completion says that the student just showed up and that is the way employers view it as well.  However, my student is doing more than just showing up.

As the parent of a young special needs child I was told if we had her take a modified version of ISTEP that it would take her off the diploma track in the THIRD GRADE, and that she couldn’t ever get back on it.

I was told to work in the fast food field.

I have had many families who have been told their child will not be able to do anything.  They do not even make an effort to explore career paths.

92% of the respondents said earning a high school diploma is important to their family member’s or their future.

Of course! And you would think the state would want our kids to be employed and paying taxes instead of a financial burden.

My son worked very hard in high school.  I think the diploma shows others that he has the drive to be a good employee.

Proposed Workforce Ready Diploma Requirements

  • English: 8 credits, including literature, composition, speech and communications
  • Math: 6-8 credits, including Algebra I, Algebra II, Geometry, Math 10 and Technical Math
  • Science: 4 credits, including Biology
  • Social Studies: 4 credits, including U.S. History and U.S. Government
  • Health and Wellness: 3 credits
  • College and Career Readiness: 8 credits, including an introductory course, personal finance and a sequence that could include academic, career and technical and fine arts classes
  • Electives: 5-7 credits

Additional requirements: students must complete at least one of the following:

  • Complete an industry-recognized certification
  • Complete career experience, such as an internship
  • Earn 3 college credits

Total: 40 credits

Current Diploma Requirements

Proposed Diploma Requirements

Written comments regarding proposed changes to the high school diploma structure may be submitted to: