The Herald Bulletin

Evening Update

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February 11, 2008

1 p.m.: State may crack down on some graduation waivers

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — State accreditation could be revoked for high schools giving out unwarranted waivers that allow students to receive diplomas without passing the state graduation exam, the Indiana Department of Education said.

The waivers were created to help students who have the knowledge to graduate but do not perform well on standardized tests, or those who have other circumstances that explain why they failed the Graduation Qualifying Exam at least three times. But some say the waivers are being abused, devaluing diplomas.

About 6 percent of the state’s graduates earned a diploma during the last school year because of the waiver, or about 3,300 students out of a class of 58,000.

Some schools have far higher waiver rates, and 15 schools grant them to more than 20 percent of their graduates.

Suellen Reed, the state’s superintendent of public instruction, said she will take a closer look at the waiver decisions that have been left up to local school officials.

“In granting the locals the opportunity to grant the waivers, the idea was they would be self-policing,” she said.

The state would consider the percentage of waivers at a school when it reviews it for accreditation every three years, Reed said. Unwarranted waivers could cost a school its accreditation, she said.

Most of the 15 schools with the highest rates of waivers are in the Gary and Indianapolis school districts. Arlington and Northwest high schools in Indianapolis Public Schools, for example, have more than 1 in 4 students graduating because of a waiver. In Gary, the percentages are higher.

Students given waivers must earn at least a C in their classes. Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Eugene White said he is confident that the district has documentation to support all the waivers it grants. But he said that if students can pass their classes, they should be able to pass the state’s exam.

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