VIGO COUNTY, Ind. (WTHI) - It's a long road to graduation day.
Right now, Indiana high school students are checking off their to-do list. That's as sights are set on passing qualifying tests to get their diplomas.
"When you think 'I need to take a Grade 10 Graduation Qualifying Exam', you don't really personalize that," said Counselor Yevonne Jones, "It doesn't seem as meaningful to you."
Very soon that will change in Indiana. That's thanks to the state's Graduation Pathways requirements, which are set to begin with high school freshmen in 2019-20.
The graduating class of 2023 will be required to have them in order to graduate.
"The class of 2023, which is our current 8th graders, this is the year in a sense," said Jones, "It seems like 2023 is far away, but these students are coming next year."
LINK | GRADUATION PATHWAYS FAQ
That's why Vigo County is getting the ball rolling early.
Recently, school board members voted to approve the early implementation of Graduation Pathways.
Jones and Fern Edwards, who are district counseling coaches, are helping lead the charge.
Leaders said they will be starting with 8th graders this year, but high school seniors, who failed the required testing needed to graduate, can opt in.
"Right now, what the high schools are doing, and what we've asked as district coaches is for them to start really looking at are their senior class students for the class of 2019 and to say here are some of the Graduation Pathways," said Jones, "Currently, these students may have not passed their I-Step Test, or current Graduation Qualifying Exam or End of Course Assessment. So they're looking for options to complete high school."
Currently, the state requires students to obtain their diploma and complete the necessary test in order to graduate.
With Pathways, students will be required to complete one of three options: project-based learning, service-based learning or work-based learning. In addition to that, students will be required to demonstrate postsecondary-ready competencies.
"That (postsecondary-ready competencies) could include some type of testing component," said Jones, "Like an SAT Test, it could include an ASVAB Test, it could include a career technical education program, dual enrollment credits. So there's a lot of different options in that last postsecondary competency, where it used to be just one. It used to be the Graduation Qualifying Exam."
Leaders said the overall goal is to make Hoosier students more attractive to employers by providing them with skills they need, as well as letting them have control of their high school experience.
"I've been a high school counselor for 23 years prior to this," said Edwards, "and it's a whole new way of thinking about not just check, check, check, check, check, I did those things. I had a part in designing how I would graduate from high school."
"It's just really exciting," said Jones, "It's no longer this Core 40 plus the test. Now it is your Core 40, possibly a test and then something that really has some meaningful experiences for students."
Leaders said they are still in the beginning stages of rolling out Graduation Pathways and are talking with counselors and principals. They also plan to meet with parents in the coming months.