US Education Officials Deny Indiana’s Diploma Waiver, Federal Grad Rate To Drop

Apr 30, 2018

The U.S. Department of Education denied Indiana’s request to count thousands of the state’s basic high school diplomas known as general diplomas.

A new federal education law, Every Student Succeeds Act, requires states to report graduation rates uniformly. The rule change means Indiana’s least rigorous diploma of the four offered, the general diploma, no longer counts in graduation rates.

Indiana’s most recent federally reported graduation rate is 87 percent.

Indiana had hoped the U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVoss would allow Indiana a one year reprieve before a new state law kicks in to address the issue. But this week the federal department denied Indiana’s request for a waiver from the rule.

“It’s unfortunate USDOE exercised federal overreach in denying Indiana’s diploma waiver request,” State Superintendent Jennifer McCormick said in a statement. “Our waiver clearly demonstrated Indiana’s diploma requirements as comparable to and often times exceeding those of other states whose ESSA plans were approved.”

Without the waiver, McCormick says, there will be a misperception that students are not performing at a proficient level.

But a law passed this year will soon combine Indiana’s four diplomas into a single diploma ‒ thus satisfying the federal law. Without the waiver, about 8,000 diplomas won’t be counted when federal graduation data is released next month.

Adam Baker, a spokesman for McCormick, says the state won’t face a negative financial impact. Federal funding could be impacted if individual Indiana schools reported low graduation rates for multiple years because of the change in the federal law.

Currently, students are required to earn at least 40 credits and pass a math and an English exam at some point during their high school years to earn a Core 40 diploma. There are three other diploma types available, including the general diploma that does not require passage of the exams.