By Mike Marsee
There were several good reasons to untangle Kentucky’s labyrinthine system of course codes, but one reason stands out.
The work of creating a uniform system of course codes will lead to uniform courses that teach the same standards and offer the same academic experiences to students across the state. It’s an issue of equity, which is at the heart of the Kentucky Department of Education’s (KDE) work as one of its three core values – equity, achievement and integrity.
“One of the main goals was to guarantee that we have equitable access to courses for all students in Kentucky, from Paducah to Pikeville, and that English I at Somerset looks exactly the same as English I at Bardstown,” said Robin McCoy, KDE’s comprehensive guidance counseling program coordinator.
The Course Code Standards Mapping Project began in February, with KDE’s offices of Teaching and Learning and Career and Technical Education working to align thousands of course codes.
“We have revised all the course codes, and for the first time we’ve attached the standards to them,” Commissioner of Education Stephen Pruitt said. “We’ve always left it up to districts to choose where the standards go. We’re not doing that anymore because it’s an equity problem.
“There’s going to be one Algebra I class, with standards that are attached to that class. There’s going to be one Algebra II, one biology, one chemistry, one English I and one English II.”
Now it falls to schools and districts to ensure that their courses and course codes align with the revised Kentucky Academic Course Codes List, a set of course descriptions and the codes that match them. KDE will be supporting schools and districts with communication and training.
“We want to get it right for districts. Aligning the standards was critical work. Now KDE is ready to begin the communication process. We want to ensure we are giving the guidance districts need to be successful in offering opportunities to their students,” McCoy said.
The new course codes take effect in the 2018-19 school year, though most districts will begin scheduling students for next year’s classes in January.
“Every district is being prompted to iron out a scheduling deadline so they can make sure their students are in the correct courses and the teachers are knowledgeable of the standards they’re expected to teach under that course code,” McCoy said. “It’s the standards aligned to a course code, but standards aren’t new to teachers.”
All teachers must make sure that the courses they teach include the standards designated for those courses. Those who teach English I, Algebra II and biology also must prepare their students for new end-of-course assessments that have been tailored to those standards.
“They’re end-of-course assessments written by Kentucky teachers, using standards developed by Kentucky teachers, aligned to course codes facilitated by KDE’s educational consultants,” McCoy said. “Everything is really tying together, which is what we’ve always wanted.”
Elementary school counselors will face a bigger adjustment than their counterparts in middle schools and high schools, McCoy said, as they will now track the opportunities being made available to students through course codes in Infinite Campus.
“Our elementary school counselors said this is going to be something different that they’ll have to wrap their minds around. We’re hearing that this is a good project that needed to be done, but it is going to take some work on the front end,” she said.
McCoy said the work also ties in with the new accountability system that will be rolled out in 2018-19, because one component of that system is opportunity and access.
“Not only do we want all students to have access to these courses, our accountability model is now going to track that,” she said.
Project manager Jenifer Hill said the project is about 95 percent complete at KDE.
“It has been a huge undertaking and it is a large team,” Hill said.
Following a kickoff meeting in February, smaller groups within the team mapped standards for all of the required content areas, Hill said.
“We really tried to streamline the process,” she said.
One of the next steps is the completion of a searchable database planned for the KDE website that will allow school personnel to find specific course codes and standards.
“That is something we are planning to do that will greatly assist the schools and the school counselors,” Hill said.
The course codes will continue to be listed in documents on the KDE website, but McCoy said the searchable database will keep counselors and teachers from having to comb through hundreds of codes.
“It puts everything at your fingertips,” she said.
Hill said one major component that remains to be done is communicating the course codes changes to schools and districts.
“There are some webcasts that are planned and documents that will be distributed,” she said. “The team leads will work with their content areas to get the word out as well, and Robin has worked very hard on that.”
McCoy said the work will never truly be finished.
“This project will be continuous as we revise the standards to better help Kentucky’s students learn the skills they need,” she said.
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