Bill could help struggling students

A bill making its way through the Indiana Statehouse would make it easier for students who have half or fewer of their needed credits by senior year to attain a high school equivalency diploma and industry certification.

House Bill 1118, authored by Indiana Rep. Michelle Davis, R-Whiteland and coauthored by Indiana Rep. Terri Jo Austin, D-Anderson, was referred to the Indiana House of Representatives’ Education Committee Jan. 4, but hasn’t been voted on since then.

If the bill passes this session, which concludes in mid-March, seniors at Center Grove, Greenwood and Whiteland high schools who qualify could participate in the program as early as the 2022-23 school year. Otherwise, students would have to wait until after the upcoming academic year, Davis said.

The program is already underway at North Central and Warren Central high schools in Indianapolis. Of the 875 seniors in Warren Central’s 2020-21 class, about 110 students qualified for the program, and of those, 39 students participated, she said.

“It would be a different pathway of success for seniors who are not on track, and it would be a good opportunity to take different options,” Davis said.

If the bill is approved, students at the three Johnson County high schools would attend adult education classes at Central nine Career Center to pursue a High School Equivalency diploma and industry certification.

Center Grove schools Superintendent Rich Arkanoff was receptive to the idea when Davis contacted him, he said.

“Anything to help students get their high school diploma and complete it, we’re supportive of, and so that just seemed like a good win for the students,” Arkanoff said. “Our graduation rate is in the high-90s, so it’s not a large number of students who would take advantage of it, but it goes with the rest of our arsenal of what we’re doing for students who are struggling.”

The district also provides an alternative academy for struggling students who are at risk of dropping out through the Simon Youth Foundation, he said.

At Central Nine, adult education students can take classes to become clinical medical assistants, dental assistants, welders, firefighters or auto-maintenance workers, among other offerings, according to the adult education center’s website.

Greenwood Community High School had an 89% graduation rate last year, the lowest in the county. If the bill passes, it would provide an opportunity for the other 11% to get their certificates and have more opportunities for success, said Terry Terhune, superintendent.

“It would benefit us, but more importantly it would be benefiting our kids, helping them graduate and come out with some sort of certification to help them have a good start in life,” Terhune said. “It’s really a way to benefit kids and help them complete high school. With that certification, they have the potential for a good job.”