— Legislation signed into law by Gov. Mike Pence will require high schools throughout Indiana to do a better job of determining whether their students are ready to go college.
The new law, House Enrolled Act 1005, was prompted in part by research that shows thousands of high school graduates, including those who graduated with academic honors, had to take basic remediation courses in math and English as college freshman.
Starting next school year, high schools will have to start identifying 11th graders who are at risk of failing their senior-year graduation exams or need remedial classes before beginning college work for credit. The law also requires high schools to start providing extra help to those students in their senior year.
The law isn’t just aimed at students who know they’ll go to college. It’s also intended to reduce the number of students allowed to graduate from high school without having to pass graduation exams. It compels high schools to test those students in their junior year to assess if they have the basic math and English skills to go into the workforce, and if not, to provide remedial help to them as well.
House Education Chairman Bob Behning of Indianapolis said the legislation will have the greatest statewide impact of any education bill passed in the 2013 session, and describes it as “the most important” education bill passed this year.
Every year, more than 10,000 college freshman who’ve graduated from Indiana high schools are required to take remedial classes that give them no college credits but cost the same as a for-credit course, according to the Indiana Commission on Higher Education.
“The legislation establishes a backstop so that any need for remediation will be identified and can be addressed in high school,” said State Rep. Ed Clere, a New Albany Republican who authored the bill. “Too many students enter college unprepared and in need of remediation. Very few of those students graduate on time, and many never graduate at all.”
Students who need to take remedial classes in college run a higher risk of dropping out, in part because they can’t afford to keep going when their money, college loans, or scholarships run out.
A 2011 study by Complete College America found that among two-year college students who enter needing remedial classes, just 9.2 percent will earn an associate degree in three years. Among four-year college students needing remediation, only 27.3 percent earn a bachelor's degree within six years.
“The statistics are staggering,” Behning said. “This helps us identify students who need the extra help early, before they leave high school.”
The remediation bill was one of several major education bills that Pence has signed into law. Others include:
— Voucher Expansion. The new law will expand the state’s private school voucher program for low-income families to include children living in the districts of failing public schools and to siblings of current voucher students. Currently, children have to spend at least one year in a public school to be eligible for a voucher. Opponents of the new law say the voucher expansion will hurt public schools by draining state funds away from them. About 9,100 Indiana students currently receive vouchers in the second school year of one of the nation's largest voucher programs. The new law also allows voucher recipients to continue receiving them if their family incomes rise above the base income threshold, a sliding scale that includes $65,352 for a family of four. And it also increases voucher caps from $4,500 to $4,700 next year and $4,800 the following year.
— Common Core Review : The Indiana State Board of Education’s decision in 2010 to join 45 other states in adopting a national set of education guidelines known as the Common Core State Standards will come under review this summer, due to House Enrolled Act 1427. The new law calls for a legislative review, public hearings and a fiscal analysis of the Common Core. The law doesn’t stop the implementation of the Common Core standards, but it does put it on pause. The new law requires the State Board of Education to make final decision before July 1, 2014, on whether to proceed with Common Core.
— On-Time College Graduation: Legislation signed by Pence last week is aimed at improving college graduation rates. Currently, less than a third of Indiana’s four-year college students graduate on time and just over half graduate after six years. Only four percent of Indiana’s two-year college students graduate on time and only 12 percent do so in three years. House Enrolled Act 1348 provides financial incentives for students to stay on track towards graduating on time and increases state scholarship money for students who graduate from high school with an academic honors diploma. The law also requires Indiana’s public colleges and universities to commit to on-time degree pathways for each student; it also creates financial disincentives for universities that fail to do so.