Looking at High School Graduation Requirements

Hi, I’m Wayne Lewis, Kentucky’s Interim
Commissioner of Education. As you have probably heard, we have been hard
at work developing a proposal for revised minimum high school graduation requirements
in Kentucky. I believe now is the time for us to make significant
revisions to our requirements. Here is why:
Kentucky now boasts one of the highest high school graduation rates in the country; nearly
90%. We are 7th in the nation for high school graduation
rate. The improvement we’ve made in high school
graduation over the last decade has been extraordinary. We now graduate many more students than we
did just a generation ago. That’s progress to be proud of. But our high school graduation rate has not
translated into the successes in college attainment or employment that you would expect. Even with graduating many more of our high
school students: we only deem 65% of our graduates to be ready
for college and/or the workforce; about 40% of our graduates do no go on to
pursue postsecondary education or training; of the 60% of graduates who do pursue postsecondary
education after high school, many of them require substantial remediation when they
arrive on college campuses and only a fraction of them earn a degree or credential before
exiting; we continue to rank at the very bottom of
states in postsecondary attainment rates; and Kentucky’s workforce participation rate
remains at the very bottom in state rankings. These data points cause us to question what
a Kentucky high school diploma really means. Currently, our minimum requirements for high
school graduation fall short of assuring that our graduates have reached even a basic level
of competency in reading and mathematics. Neither do our requirements ensure that our
graduates are ready for college or the workforce. We can do so much better. At the August 2nd meeting of the Kentucky
Board of Education, we will recommend significant changes to Kentucky’s minimum standards
for high school graduation. The process for developing our recommended
changes has involved substantial stakeholder input and a tremendous amount of work and
discussion by KDE staff and members of the Kentucky Board of Education. If approved, the new requirements would go
into effect for high school freshman in the Fall of 2019. We will share details of that recommendation
very soon, but I want to share a few key elements with you now:
The proposed minimum high school graduation requirements are aligned to the “profile
of a graduate” described by post-secondary educators and business and industry leaders. According to these groups, a high school graduate
should be able to communicate, achieve academically, think critically, adapt to change and collaborate. Under the new requirements a graduate would
complete a minimum of 22 credits and demonstrate attainment of basic skills in reading and
mathematics on new 10th grade reading and mathematics assessments. Passing those assessments would become a requirement
for high school graduation. Students would be required to complete state
science and social studies assessments in grade 11, pass a civics test, receive instruction
in financial literacy, and demonstrate essential skills and technology competence. Additionally, students would be required to
demonstrate transition readiness, by attaining “academic readiness” or “career readiness”
as defined in Kentucky’s new school accountability system. These are significant changes, but I have
complete confidence that our students, educators, and communities are more than capable of rising
to the occasion and meeting or exceeding the bar. I look forward to continuing to work with
districts, schools, and stakeholders across the commonwealth as we continue striving for
educational excellence. Thank you.

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