On Wednesday, the Kentucky Board of Education unanimously approved new high school minimum graduation requirements for Kentucky students entering high school in 2019.
The requirements will now move through legislature committees, with a possible effective date of March 2019.
Owensboro Public Schools Superintendent Nick Brake believes the legislature will approve it and overall, he sees the changes as positive.
“I appreciate that they have listened to our concerns about pigeonholing kids in career or college-ready paths,” Brake said. “Now they can do both and doesn’t make them choose just one at 15 or 16 years old.”
Daviess County Public Schools Superintendent Matt Robbins was also encouraged that the education commissioner and the state board listened to the input provided by educators and were willing to modify the graduation requirements.
“I have been very interested in creating more CTE [Career Technical Education] pathways for our students, and this has been a goal of mine prior to the graduation requirement proposal,” Robbins said.
In a presentation to the board, Kentucky Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis described the two main changes to the original proposal approved in October, both related to providing more flexibility for students on their path toward college or a career.
“We value the comments we received,” said Lewis. “In the revised proposal, the personalized pathways for students remain, with flexibility for additional math and English courses. The most significant change comes in detaching the transition readiness component from the graduation requirement.”
The new standards would require students entering high school in the 2019-2020 school year to meet one of eight graduation qualifiers:
- Complete a pre-college curriculum as established by the Council on Postsecondary Education; or
- Receive a benchmark score in one section of a college admissions test or placement examination; or
- Complete a dual credit course of at least three credit hours with at least a grade of a C or higher; or
- Receive a corresponding benchmark score on an Advanced Placement (AP), Cambridge Advanced International (CAI) or International Baccalaureate (IB) test; or
- Receive an industry certification as approved by the Kentucky Workforce Innovation Board; or
- Complete four credits within a KDE-approved career pathway;
- Complete two years of a KDE-approved or Kentucky Labor Cabinet-approved pre-apprenticeship or apprenticeship; or
- Complete 500 hours of work experience.
“The Department believes these qualifiers are more representative of the varying availability of courses students currently have access to, thus creating more equitable requirements,” Lewis said.
Robbins believes the provided options are a move in the right direction and reflect a better approach for students to demonstrate their readiness.
“We know that students learn in multiple ways and the fact that students have these options allows them to find one component that works well for them in demonstrating career or college-readiness,” Robbins said.
Brake agrees and said that the new requirements are a way to position as many students as possible to be community college ready upon high school graduation. Whereas it used to be that a person needed 12 years of education, Brake said that now a person needs at least 15 years of education for middle-class job opportunities.
“Part of this is the way to adjust that dynamic,” Brake said. “Overall it does raise the bar and it is important for us to continue to improve.”
The proposed changes also include the introduction of graduation prerequisites. In addition to meeting one of the eight graduation qualifiers, students will also have to demonstrate competency in reading and math in one of three ways:
- The student’s 10th-grade state-required assessments meeting the minimum criteria in reading and mathematics; or
- The student’s 8th-grade state-required assessment rating of proficient or higher for reading or mathematics or both reading and mathematics, if applicable; or
- The principal may submit a collection of the following student evidence to the superintendent or designee for review and approval.
Brake said he had hoped that districts would have been granted more time when considering the middle school changes, since students have to pass at an apprentice level — and not just for the school’s accountability, but also for their personal diploma. Brake is concerned for students who score at a novice level and how they will move to apprentice for graduation.
Robbins said that DCPS has made a concerted effort over the last two years to shift toward a standards-based math and English-language arts curriculum in the middle schools and does not foresee any large-scale changes from what they are doing and what they plan to do to meet the middle and high school requirements.
The latest requirements that were approved removed several components from the first draft of the proposal in recognition of some of the equity challenges among districts and students, and although Lewis said that the changes made to the original proposal are a “step back,” Brake disagrees.
“The previous iterations would have led to a significant decrease in the graduation rate,” Brake said.
Brake does not believe the new requirements will show a significant decrease, if there is one, but he did say there are a lot more challenges for high schools to deal with, concerning the new requirements.
Robbins does believe that the new requirements have the potential to lower the graduation rates across the state.
“My preference would be for the removal of the state testing proficiency requirement at grade 10, however that did not happen,” Robbins said.
Regardless, both superintendents are pleased with the overall outcome.
“The revisions certainly relieved some of the large concerns and makes this much more acceptable to DCPS,” Robbins said.
But most importantly, both commend the board for seeking input from the school systems.
“I am appreciative that they listened to the educators,” Brake said.