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Indiana teachers voice concerns over literacy endorsement rollout, high school redesign

A person in a red t-shirt sits with folded arms listening to public comment during a State Board of Education meeting.
Lauren Chapman
IPB News
Educators said they are unhappy with the state's rollout of a new literacy endorsement and redesigned high school diplomas.

Educators from across Indiana spoke out against a new literacy endorsement and revised graduation requirements at the State Board of Education meeting on Wednesday. They said training for the endorsement is confusing and burdensome and they expressed concern that the new graduation requirements won’t help students become well-rounded.

The Indiana Department of Education must revise the state’s graduation requirements by December this year. Its current proposal loosens requirements for some subjects like history and social studies, and emphasizes internships and work-based learning.

Educators who teach subjects including economics, music and foreign languages said those areas should be included in the new requirements because schools could cut them if students are not required to take those courses.

“It’s my understanding that world history and economics will no longer be required classes for high school graduates,” said Kevin Cogdell, a history teacher at Homestead High School. “I cannot believe, in 2024 America, with all that’s going on in the world, we’re discussing ending world history as a graduation requirement. It’s mindboggling.”

Educators also said students will miss out on learning a wide variety of skills if they are not encouraged to take a wide range of classes.

“I acknowledge that one of the goals of our educational system should be to prepare students for the workforce,” Cogdell said. “However, I think our educational system also needs to prepare our students to be well-rounded citizens, not just the workforce.”

Educators were not the only ones who weighed in on the new graduation requirements. Piper Craft, a junior at Borden Junior-Senior High School, said there is a large competency gap in between the two proposed diploma types.

“These changes would direct every Indiana student’s choices down to two polar opposite ends of the academic spectrum,” she said. “You’re essentially asking a freshman student, a student who is barely 15 years old, to decide the trajectory of their high school career by having them choose between what is arguably lesser than the equivalent of a Core 40 and what is the equivalent of a handful of academic honors diplomas stacked on top of each other.”

Educators also said they are worried about disparities in the new system because students in small, rural schools and underserved communities might not have a wide variety of internship and work-based opportunities available to them.

Many educators said they feel as if their concerns about the new graduation requirements have been dismissed or brushed aside.

“Teachers in our buildings are frustrated,” Cogdell said. “It feels like we’re not being heard.”

Another new law requires educators who work with kids in pre-K to sixth grade or special education to have a new literacy endorsement in the coming years. But some teachers said they do not teach reading and will not use it.

READ MORE: IDOE reveals first draft of high school graduation overhaul, set to take effect 2029

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Jessica Hurley is a teacher at Boonville Middle School. She planned to pursue her master’s degree in math education.

“Instead, I have taken a literacy teacher’s spot as I am signed up for a training in literacy — something I have no interest in teaching, have never taught and will never teach,” she said.

Others said the training is problematic because it’s unpaid and takes 80 hours outside of school to complete. Multiple educators said taking the course would interfere with their second jobs or spending time with their families.

Educators could be eligible for a $1,200 stipend, but some said the stipend doesn’t cover 80 hours of child care. Some teachers requested allowing educators to complete the training during their working hours or be paid for their time.

They also shared frustration that the IDOE hasn’t released a list of approved alternate training programs and is requiring teachers to pass a test to evaluate how successfully they are integrating the science of reading into their classrooms.

Deborah Heath teaches at Indianapolis Public Schools. She said the process of establishing literacy endorsements has been disorganized because schools and educators did not know which professional development courses would be approved by the state.

“It feels like the plane is being built while it is being flown,” she said.

Heath added that some of the initial language the IDOE used to describe the literacy endorsement made it sound optional, and said she was surprised to learn her license was at stake over the endorsement. Heath suggested IDOE pause the rollout of the new literacy endorsement and clarify exactly how educators can fulfill the requirements.

Some schools have already paid for professional development for teachers based on the science of reading. Indiana State Teachers Association President Keith Gambill said districts began that work shortly after the science of reading curricula was passed by the Indiana General Assembly in 2023.

"We have no idea if that money from the districts was wasted. If the time that those teachers spent in there has been wasted," Gambill said. "And that is unfortunate. And it is something that the department and the State Board needs to answer to."

Indiana Secretary of Education Katie Jenner said before the board adjourned that she is considering every comment made during the more than four-and-a-half hour meeting and will keep working with educators and other stakeholders to resolve the issues.

“We’ll keep adding support as long as the demand is there,” Jenner said. “Keep that communication open with us. There are absolutely a number of strong points we will work through and consider.”

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.