Changes to graduation requirements mean more flexibility for high schoolers

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) – Changes to high school graduation requirements may be approved when the Kentucky Board of Education meets early next month.

While 22 credits will still be needed to earn a diploma, there will be more flexibility in those requirements.

Interim Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis said in an interview with Kentucky Toady the changes are needed for two main reasons:

“We’re graduating some kids who struggle to read and to do basic mathematics. That’s a big one,” he said. “Second, we boast a 90 percent graduation rate in Kentucky, ranked seventh in the nation. But we deem 65 percent of our graduates to be college or career ready. That means, by our own measure 35 percent are not ready.”

Lewis said that begs the question why diplomas are being issued to those who are not prepared for the next step in their life, be it college or the workforce.

The changes will allow for more flexibility in course work, to align students with where they want to go following graduation.

Another component of the changes is what he terms as an end of span assessment starting during the sophomore year in high school.

“Kids would be required to demonstrate that they have a basic competency in reading and mathematics as a requirement for graduation,” Lewis said.

Transition-readiness would be another requirement for graduation.

“It’s the same as our old college and career readiness, we just define it a little bit differently,” he said.

“Kids have a number of ways to demonstrate academic readiness. These include meeting Council on Postsecondary Education benchmarks on a college admission examination, dual credit courses, AP and Cambridge examination,” Lewis said. “On the career ready side, students can demonstrate that through career technical education, dual credit coursework, earning industry-recognized certification, completing approved apprenticeship programs, and exceptional work experience.”

Department of Education worked on the changes most of this year and held several public forums.

“That included lots of conversations with business and industry colleagues, with educators and education leaders, who have given lots of input constructing what we call the profile of a graduate; what we want kids to look like, to have the skills we want them to have and the confidence when they earn their high school diplomas.”

The state board discussed the proposal at every meeting since June, Lewis said, and he expects final action at the October 2 and 3 meetings.

“This proposal is central to what we hope to accomplish, not only in education but to economic development, workforce development and it’s really central to where we want to go as a Commonwealth,” he said.

He says he is also hopeful the Board will make him the permanent Commissioner, during the two-day meeting. He has been serving as Interim Commissioner since April.

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