In the 1990s, my friends and I graduated from high school with diplomas in hand, heads full of ideas, and pats on the back – not with graduation pathways.
My pathway came later, as I felt my way through freshman year at Ball State.
I landed on special education and it fit like a glove.
Fast forward 19 years, and I am still working in a career I love. I have promised myself that I will work with each and every one of my students to provide as many opportunities for success as I can, while working through the constraints of the system's rules and regulations. As my job evolves, each year becomes more of a challenge to keep the focus on the student.
When I began my career as a teacher in Florida, I was able to look at a student's Individualized Education Plan and focus on their goals and accommodations. We had a staff person who took care of the rest so I could focus on the student.
Now, the expectation is that I will write goals and accommodations and I will help the student figure out what he or she wants to be when they grow up.
I teach skills in accordance with Indiana state standards, which do not always suit individual needs. I am an advocate for the parent. I am support for the classroom teachers. I help test and retest using state exams.
My available time with each individual student has somewhat dwindled, yet I continue to try to keep the promise I made to myself: I must help provide opportunities for success.
Teachers struggle daily to keep the idea of student-first language alive, but some new state proposals will make this task even more arduous.
The State Board of Education's brainchild is something called “Graduation Pathways,” based on the work of a panel formed to examine graduation requirements.
Did they think it was too easy to graduate from high school? Were they looking for ways to save money?
If the proposed changes go into effect, my already-arduous job becomes tougher, and graduation requirements will seem insurmountable for some of my students.
The population I work with often struggles to maintain passing grades in required classes. We are filling their schedules with remediation for language, reading, mathematics, test readiness and organization.
Some students have taken the end-of-course assessments for English or algebra upwards of seven times without success.
Currently, there is a waiver process to help these students when they meet all the other graduation requirements but aren't able to pass the tests. Some students do not test well, and there needs to be a way to help them be successful.
Here is the basic outline for “success” under the Graduation Pathways proposal:
1. Earn a high school diploma by attaining required credits.
2. Demonstrate employability skills through locally developed programs.
3. Pass a test such as the SAT or ACT, unless the student pursues an honors diploma.
When will my students have time to satisfy all of these requirements? They are only in school 36 weeks out of the year, and for many it is taking 4.5 years or additional online classes to finish high school because of the remediation requirements already in place.
We do not need more requirements for our students. We need to focus on preparing students for their future and meeting their needs so we don't have them leave our high schools with a diploma in hand, a pat on the back and no plan in place. Let's work with our students within a structure we already know to try to continue building awareness of who they are and how they can get there. The current system is strenuous, but we have put practices in place to help deal with our challenges.
I will continue keeping the promise I made to myself 19 years ago so that 19 years from now I can look back and know that I have so many reasons to be proud of what I did for my students. It is my responsibility; it is my honor.
Carrie Veit, a Fort Wayne resident, has been a special education teacher for 19 years.
Members of the State Board of Education are expected to vote on Graduation Pathways on Dec. 6. Contact them by email at:
Dr. Vince Bertram
Dr. Byron Ernest
Dr. David Freitas
State Superintendent Jennifer McCormick, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Maryanne McMahon
Dr. Steve Yager, email@example.com