Hoosiers are living in a world fueled by information, powered by technology, and driven by knowledge - a world in which education beyond high school is essential for success. Indiana students and families have begun to recognize this reality. Currently, 63.4 percent of Hoosier high school seniors go directly to college after graduation, placing Indiana above the national average in this regard.
Increased access to higher education does not guarantee success. Nearly a quarter of Indiana college students do not return for their second year of college. While reasons for dropping out are many, one factor is clear: access without the preparation to succeed is not a true college opportunity.
The importance of high academic expectations for all Indiana students cannot be overstated. Research supports that a rigorous academic curriculum is the single-most significant factor in determining a student's success in college. In fact, research indicates that rigorous course-taking in high school can overcome a variety of determining factors and socio-economic circumstances, including poverty and level of parental education.
Students entering postsecondary education inadequately prepared for the rigors of college often are placed in noncredit or remedial courses wherein they pay college tuition to learn high school-level skills and concepts. As a result, these students take longer to complete their programs of study and are left with larger debt upon graduation. Colleges providing the remediation for these ill-prepared students divert resources away from collegiate-level instruction. Many of these students leave college before earning a degree.
Not completing a two-year or four-year college education has dramatic financial implications to the individual as well as the state. The lifetime earning potential of a student not completing higher education is nearly $1 million less than an individual with a degree. Ten thousand additional students earning a four-year degree, will add as much as $250 million per year to the economy (approximately $10 billion over a 40-year lifespan).27
In 1994, K-12, business, and higher education came together in support of Core 40 - a single high school curriculum designed to give students the best foundation for success in college and the workforce. The opportunities for students going directly into the workforce without this same preparation are limited. Studies conducted by the American Diploma Project show the academic requirements of employers offering family-wage jobs, apprenticeship programs, and the military are very similar to the academic requirements for college.
Next Steps to Improve Student Achievement:
- Ensure Indiana's requirements for high school graduation provide students with the academic foundation necessary for the demands of college and a knowledge-based economy. Ensure that the state's differentiated diploma requirements are among the best in the nation.
- Insist on high-quality, rigorous academic curriculum for all. Make Core 40 the required high school curriculum.
- Provide sufficient time for communication with parents and students regarding the new requirements and for preparation for the changes to be made by teachers and schools.
- Communicate with parents and students the advantages of completing the more rigorous coursework required for Core 40 and Academic Honors.
- Require students choosing not to take the recommended Core 40 course of study to formally "opt-out" with parental and school consent.
- Require students opting-out of Core 40 to complete the requirements for a general diploma. Strengthen general diploma requirements to provide a more focused career and academic sequence.
- Ensure the quality, consistency, and alignment of high school curriculum and instruction to Indiana's Academic Standards by implementing a Core 40 End-of-Course Assessment (ECA) System. Use appropriate End-of-Course Assessments as college placement exams (see Higher Education and Continued Learning).
- Encourage students with progressive exposure to the world of work through connected learning experiences including job shadowing, career days, internships, cooperative learning, academic and career majors, and other career exploration opportunities.
- Ensure that attendance policies support the educational value of these experiences.
- Encourage all schools to develop course sequences for academic and career majors within Core 40 and encourage all students to take advantage of the preparation these sequences provide.
- Ensure that all K-12 schools have comprehensive guidance programs that support high achievement for all students and begin career and college counseling no later than middle school.
- Increase the achievement of the state's "highest achievers," including efforts to significantly grow the number of students completing:
- Algebra by grades 7 and 8
- Advanced Placement courses
- PSAT and PLAN
- International Baccalaureate programs
- Ensure that all students have opportunities to take Advanced Placement (AP) and dual or concurrent enrollment programs to earn college credit while in high school.
- Ensure that students are not prohibited from taking advantage of dual enrollment opportunities because of cost.
- Ensure that dual credit courses are high quality and comprised of college-level coursework and that the credits earned are transferable among Indiana's colleges and universities.
- Ensure that vocational/technical programs offered at the high school level lead to highly skilled occupations in high demand areas.
- Ensure high school vocational-technical programs link with degree programs at Indiana two-year and four-year colleges when appropriate.
- Ensure vocational/technical programs provide business and industry certification of skills.
- Implement an electronic, high school transcript system to transfer student data between high schools, postsecondary institutions, and employers.
- Ask Indiana employers to demonstrate business and industry support and demand for higher student academic achievement in hiring practices.