Indiana To Hear New Plan For Students Not On Diploma Path

Jul 11, 2017

Students with significant cognitive disabilities can pursue a credential known as a “certificate of completion,” which is less rigorous than a high school diploma. (Photo Credit: Alexander McCall/WFIU News)

State officials plan to develop new courses of study for special education students on track to receive a certificate instead of a high school diploma. Officials are expected to present a plan to the Indiana State Board of Education Wednesday.

Students with significant cognitive disabilities can pursue a credential known as a certificate of completion, which is less rigorous than a high school diploma. This typically extends to students who may communicate using few phrases, be medically fragile or have severe motor challenges.

The criteria for achieving a certification of completion is currently undefined by Indiana law. The state provides little guidance to schools other than the certificate may be awarded to students who haven’t met diploma requirements, but have met their individualized educational plans.

Under a current proposal, state officials would develop certificate requirements that mirror those needed to earn a diploma. Students would need to complete 40 credits, with an emphasis on academics and job readiness.

Proposed courses of study could include classes like Business Math or Basic Skills Development. They could also include more typical academic classes.

Under a new federal education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act, students with significant cognitive disabilities must meet alternate achievement standards aligned with state academic standards. The state is preparing to submit its plan to comply with the law in a few months.

In recent years, parents expressed concerns about their children accessing the workforce without a high school diploma. Many employers do not recognize certificates as meaningful documents. And schools reported receiving minimal guidance on how to serve students pursuing a certificate, even as growing numbers of students exit high school with them.

In 2016 about 16 percent of students with disabilities exiting high school received a certificate. Officials have also said, whenever possible, they want students to earn a diploma.

In 2015, the state formed a committee to address the criticism and develop a plan to create rigorous courses of study for students pursuing a certificate. This is the plan they are presenting to the Indiana State Board of Education.

The state board meets at 9:30 a.m. at the Indiana Government Center on Wednesday.