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IDOE announces plans to expand work-based learning, revisit high school diploma requirements

Indiana Secretary of Education Katie Jenner sits at a table during the State Board of Education meeting May 2023. Jenner is a white woman with light blonde hair and wears glasses. She is flanked by American and Indiana flags.
Screenshot of Indiana Department of Education livestream
Indiana Secretary of Education Katie Jenner said the IDOE will emphasize work-based learning as part of changes to high school curriculums across the state.

The Indiana Department of Education announced a plan to expand work-based learning.

IDOE consultants from Insightful Education Solutions presented to the State Board of Education on Wednesday about the history of education reform in Indiana from the 1980s to the present. They also shared feedback from educators, businesses, colleges and universities, other states and various other community groups about different high school programs.

The consultants said the feedback indicates a need for student-centered learning that personalizes each student’s education by teaching them skills and helping them gain experience in their areas of interest.

Katie Jenner, Indiana secretary of education, expressed hopes that a new high school education process will help students succeed beyond high school.

“Parents of all types, from honors parents to parents of special needs students, really talked a lot about access for their kids to have experiences in work-based learning and in these credentials of value,” Jenner said. “A common theme that kept bubbling to the top, whether we call it this or not, [was] if grad pathways is the foundation, how can we make a diploma plus that really opens the door for us not to be obsessed with coursework, but to really elevate the value of experiences and readiness?”

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To foster that type of learning experience, the IDOE said it plans to make diploma requirements more flexible and relevant to students, increase student access to work-based learning, and encourage high school students to receive credits and certificates from colleges, universities, trades, and vocational schools before they graduate.

“I think one thing that is glaringly obvious to me is the mindset shift and the culture shift that this will create in the education industry in our state,” said Iris Hammel, a member of the State Board of Education. “What I always think about then is, how are we preparing teachers and pre-service teachers? Are there any levers we can pull with teacher prep programs? It’s cute when I hear, ‘Oh, we had a unit on project-based learning in our teacher prep program.’ It’s not a unit, it’s a shift. It’s kind of like a lifestyle shift, a mindset shift.”

After revising statewide high school graduation standards, the IDOE plans to continue getting feedback from communities throughout the state and collaborate with the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, the Commission for Higher Education, and the Governor’s Workforce Cabinet to define “credentials of value” and “high-quality, work-based learning.”

Jenner said the board will make recommendations to lawmakers before the next legislative session. She added that some schools could to opt-in to new education programs by the beginning of the 2024-2025 school year.

“That is a very, very, very, very expedited pace, but we know that we can do it, and we have alignment and a lot of people ready to move forward with this,” Jenner said.

Kirsten is our education reporter. Contact her at or follow her on Twitter at @kirsten_adair.

Kirsten the Indiana Public Broadcasting education reporter. Contact her at or follow her on Twitter at @kirsten_adair.