Addressing graduation pathways

By Sam Hanley
IHSPA Secretary
Southport High School

With scheduling for the next year in full-swing — and many unanswered questions surrounding new graduation pathway requirements — members have been reaching out with questions about how journalism and student publications courses might fit into the scheduling puzzle. 

First and foremost, it’s important to establish that there is not a one size fits all approach to this. The DOE’s pathways initiative, as we see it, is designed to offer flexibility to schools. And our member schools have a variety of resources to meet the needs of students. The following information is designed as a starting place for conversations about how pathways might affect your journalism classes and publications programs.

Indiana Graduation Pathway Requirements

What are the graduation requirements?

Starting with the class of 2023, all Indiana graduates are required to fulfill three Pathway requirements

  1. Fulfill coursework for a high school diploma;
  2. Demonstrate employability skills through project-based, service-based, or work-based learning;
  3. Complete a requirement to show post-secondary readiness (including CTE Concentrator Pathways — more on this later.)

A full accounting of DOE requirements can be found here: Graduation Pathways Panel

Is there a pathway for journalism classes?

Not as such, no. When pathways were first introduced a few years ago, the board looked at how the (new at the time) requirements might affect journalism classes and student media programs. After a few months of study and discussion among both the board and general membership at the fall meeting, we decided that journalism programs were pulling from the same pool of students, generally, as AP/IB/Honors programs and didn’t see the need to lobby for creating a unique pathway. 

Why not create a local pathway for journalism?

Since the inception of the Pathways initiative, the state has approved only three locally-created Pathways: Recreational vehicle manufacturing at Wa-Nee schools, aviation metalworking in Decatur Township, and civic arts in Clark County. Because of varying local needs and resources, a convoluted application process, and the low number of approved Pathways, IHSPA doesn’t see this as a particularly good use of time or resources. That said, if you feel a locally-created pathway might be the way to go in your community, please reach out!

If there’s no pathway, how can I “sell” my program?

Here’s the good news: As we see it, journalism classes and subsequent student publication programs are excellent ways to demonstrate employability skills. “Selling” a journalism program as project-based learning seems like a natural way for our existing publications courses to check box number two. We encourage proactive conversations with school administrators and guidance counselors to ensure that journalism programs are seen as ways for students to fulfill this requirement. (If you’re looking for fodder for this particular conversation, please note that some schools are labeling participation in student government or playing on the football team as “service-based learning.”)

What about box 3?

Most students in journalism classes and student publications programs will fulfill the requirement for postsecondary readiness with successful completion of an AP or dual credit class, an SAT, ACT or ASVAB score, or by earning an honors diploma. But there is some gray area surrounding implementation of “CTE Concentrator Pathways.” The state has designated a series of Pathways, mostly based on STEM skills, as a safety-valve for those students who aren’t able to meet more rigorous requirements. Some schools are interpreting this as a requirement

IHSPA encourages all advisers to complete this short survey about the impact of the state’s new graduation pathways.

How can I get more students into my courses?

There is really good news from the recent changes approved by Indiana’s DOE and State Board of Education. First, both Journalism (course #1080) and Digital Media (course #1084 and formerly Mass Media) can now count for as many as two of the eight English credits needed to graduate! So in theory, half of a student’s English requirement can be earned in your classes. Second, there is no longer a maximum number of credits one can earn from Student Media (course #1086). Third, the Student Media class is no longer just the traditional newspaper and yearbook. The state approved a change to the course description that states, “Students demonstrate their ability to do journalistic writing and design for high school media, including school newspapers, yearbooks, and a variety of other media formats.” Therefore, if you are fortunate enough to have a news website, literary magazine, broadcast, etc. class labeled with the student media course number, those students can fulfill the Fine Arts requirement for the Core 40 with Academic Honors.

We encourage you to speak with your school’s administration and counseling department to ensure these changes have gone into effect in your district. IHSPA would be happy to put you in touch with schools and advisers who are already doing this — and seeing increased numbers in their publications programs as a result! You can also visit IHSPA’s journalism standards page for more details. 

Now what?

IHSPA would like to know how the new graduation guidelines are affecting you. Please consider completing this very short survey so we can better address those areas impacting your program: Graduation Pathways Survey

And as always, please reach out to ihspa@franklincollege.edu for anything you need!

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