Indiana Emphasizes High School Work Experience, but may offer transcript seals for college-bound students

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Indiana is making a significant shift: prioritizing work experience over a prescribed set of courses to better prepare students for post-high school success. The state is redesigning its high school graduation requirements to focus less on college preparation and more on workplace readiness.

Starting with the Class of 2029, students will earn either the standard Graduates Prepared to Succeed (GPS) diploma or the workplace-focused GPS Diploma Plus. This new system will replace the current Core 40 diplomas, including the Academic Honors diploma.

At a board meeting on Wednesday, Indiana Department of Education officials announced changes to the initial draft proposal of the new requirements. These revisions include allowing students to earn seals on their transcripts, indicating readiness for enrolment, employment, or enlistment. However, these seals will be earned in addition to the new diplomas. To earn the higher-level diploma, students must complete between 75 and 2,000 hours of work experience.

Since the original blueprint for the new diploma rules was unveiled in March, educators have expressed skepticism. They argue that the proposed diplomas undervalue currently required courses such as world language, social studies, advanced math, and fine arts in favor of work experience. Concerns have also been raised about eliminating the Academic Honors diploma, which is closely linked to college admission. This change could force students to choose between a diploma perceived as less rigorous by universities and one that demands significantly more work experience.

The seals are an attempt to address these concerns. For example, to earn an “enrollment ready” seal, students would need to complete coursework that meets the minimum entrance requirements for most state higher education institutions. Students could earn multiple seals.

With the seals and three levels of the GPS Plus diploma, there would be 32 diploma options for students, along with the federally required alternative diploma. Currently, there are six options, including the general diploma and the alternative diploma.

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