Session asks whether public schools are in peril

Proposed changes to Indiana high school graduation requirements are among the topics that will be discussed by a panel of educators this month.

Education topics such as standardized testing, charter schools and vouchers will also be discussed by keynote speaker Rocky Killion, superintendent of the West Lafayette Community School Corp., the Indiana Superintendent of the Year for 2015.

The presentation, “Are Public Schools in Peril?,” will also feature panelists, including Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. Superintendent Jim Roberts and Flat Rock-Hawcreek School Corp. Superintendent Shawn Price, said Dale Nowlin, math department chair at Columbus North High School and a panelist himself.

The remaining two panelists are Jill Shedd, a Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. board member, and Cathy Fuentes-Rowher, from the Indiana Coalition for Public Education in Monroe County.

The forum, hosted by the Public Education Committee of Bartholomew County Indivisible, is scheduled from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Jan. 10 in the Red Room at the Bartholomew County Public Library. The discussion is being conducted in an attempt to discuss how state legislation will impact schools on a local level, said Nowlin, a member of the committee.

The organization decided to bring in Killion in part because of his credibility in leading one of the most successful school systems in Indiana, Nowlin said. The education committee has also spent the past year looking at issues surrounding education and how legislation from the state has had an impact, he said.

“Public education impacts all of us in some way or another,” Nowlin said.

The proposed changes to high school graduation requirements have received support from the Indiana State Board of Education but also must be approved by the Indiana General Assembly during its short session, Jan. 3 to March 14.

The proposed changes include three main requirements for graduation:

Having students earn a diploma based on credit requirements from the state.

Learning and demonstrating employability through project-based, work-based or service-based learning experiences.

Requiring students to earn or meet requirements for a range of other assessments, such as the state’s honors diploma, ACT or SAT exams, an apprenticeship or dual-credit courses.

The plan, if also approved by state lawmakers, would take effect for students in the graduating class of 2023, who are seventh-graders this year.

Panelists will be given opportunities to respond to Killion’s comments, while questions from the public will also be taken, Nowlin said.

Roberts said in an earlier interview that he doesn’t think the proposed changes to graduation requirements will have a major impact on BCSC, a position that Nowlin said he agrees with.

“BCSC is in a much better position than many other school systems because of things like dual credit, AP courses and the C4 program,” Nowlin said.

Roberts said BCSC already prepares students in the area of college and career readiness. The ACT is administered to every student and the district participates in the Governor’s Work Ethic certificate program, which allows high school seniors to ensure they have the skills and traits employers are seeking, he said.

In addition, all of the district’s high school seniors complete a senior project that helps measure skills that should demonstrate whether a student is ready for a career, Roberts said.

If you go

What: Public education forum “Are Public Schools in Peril?” featuring Rocky Killion, superintendent of the West Lafayette Community School Corp. and local panelists focusing on Indiana’s education changes

When: 6 to 7:30 p.m. Jan. 10 in the Red Room at the Bartholomew County Public Library

More information: Free and open to the public

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Matt Kent is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at 812-379-5712 or mkent@therepublic.com