2019 is a big year for students and educators in the state of Indiana. This year’s freshmen will be the first to graduate under Indiana’s new graduation requirements. On August 29, area educators from seven counties across Northwest Indiana, economic developers, and state officials, huddled in the auditorium at Hobart High School for a Region-wide team meeting tackling the subject.
The session served as a collaborative tool for READY NWI, a consortium of region school systems, post secondary institutions, and businesses developed by Center of Workforce Innovations to better prepare students for college and career readiness. The organization particularly seeks to grow future workforce and community leaders for Northwest Indiana by investing in the best shared practices, ensuring success among students. The meeting focused on the new requirements students will need to achieve to graduate from high school and defined goals for READY NWI.
“We’re hoping to launch employer engagement as much as anything else,” said Roy Vanderford, Director of Business Development for Center of Workforce Innovations. “We’ve got a new office at the state level that’s promoting work-based learning and apprenticeship. We’re trying to connect those resources better to schools and students, and keep that talent in Northwest Indiana.”
Regional Director of Work-Based Learning & Apprenticeship Matthew Presley of the Indiana Department of Workforce Development was one of the presenters on hand to discuss those opportunities, which included emerging internships and certification programs.
Dr. Jennifer McCormick, Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction, addressed the focal point of the meeting: Graduation Pathways. Launching into a more detailed discussion of the requirements, how they will reflect and impact statewide trends, and how decisions concerning education occur at the state level, McCormick helped attendees make further sense of the new expectations.
Prior to the new requirements, Indiana prescribed to a one-size-fits-all method, with one graduation qualifying exam at the end of a high school student’s four years. Now, multiple pathways are available to students on the road to graduation, and the final exam is replaced by the completion of three key buckets: acquiring necessary credits, learning and demonstrating employable skills, and achieving post-secondary-ready competencies. McCormick unpacked the importance of dual credits and work-based learning opportunities in fulfilling these requirements.
“Here in Northwest Indiana, you’ve done an excellent job in securing community partners and pushing dual credits,” McCormick said. “Those dual credits are saving lots of families millions of dollars. I commend you in that effort, and it’s only going to keep growing in importance.”
In addition to real-world experience, McCormick said social-emotional learning is one of the skills being targeted for growth in 2020, and that state and local educators will need to join forces to provide students with access to more rigorous courses, expanded opportunities in a wider variety of interests, and the capacity-resources needed to ensure student success and fulfillment.
Rachelle Baker, Graduation Pathway Coordinator for River Forest High School, unveiled a video designed to engage a wider community audience, particularly employers presented with more chances to involve themselves with schools than ever before.
“As a key priority to engage employers in the pathways, we submitted the idea of a regional video that could spark conversations and action with employers and all schools,” Baker said. “Our hope is that the video approach will demonstrate a shared commitment across schools to ensure all students in the Region will have the opportunity to graduate.”
In addition, Daniela Mancusi-Shreve, Work Ethic Coordinator for Center of Workforce Innovations, gave a presentation on regional success in work ethic certifications, touching on the some 1000 certificates awarded to students last year and the capacity for more this year. Stacey Kellogg, Editorial Director for GreatNews.Life, discussed the company’s #1StudentNWI program, a unique paid internship that allows one student from each school in the Region to gain work-based experience in multimedia journalism.
Linda Woloshansky, CEO of Center of Workforce Innovations, looked toward a collaborative future.
“We feel really committed to keep moving forward, to keep introducing new concepts, to make sure that the schools have what they need from a business support system, because we work extensively through employers of Northwest Indiana,” she said. “It really has to be a partnership, a two-way street that makes this happen. No individual institution can do this on their own.”
“We always say that there’s random acts of excellence in every school, but what we want is to really take that, harness it, package it, and spread it,” she said, “so that all schools can take advantage of the best practices, share those, and make sure our students are all ready for careers.”