What you need to know about the new minimum high school graduation requirements

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Kentucky’s new minimum high school graduation requirements became law on April 5.
Kentucky’s new minimum high school graduation requirements became law on April 5. It’s important to focus on the “minimum” aspect of the requirements. The requirements can be adjusted by individual districts to fit the needs of their students.
Photo by Amy Wallot, May 18, 2012
  • The new minimum high school graduation requirements give students entering high school in the 2019-2020 school year the chance to take more classes geared toward their plans after graduation.
  • The changes to the requirements also add “graduation qualifiers” and “graduation prerequisites” to ensure students have necessary math and reading skills.

By Jacob Perkins
Jacob.perkins@education.ky.gov

For parents of incoming high school freshmen, your child’s schedule may look a little different than what you may have imagined.

Kentucky’s new minimum high school graduation requirements (704 KAR 3:305) became law on April 5. It’s important to focus on the “minimum” aspect of the requirements. Minimum high school graduation requirements may be strengthened by individual districts to fit the needs of their students.

The new minimum requirements give students entering high school in the 2019-2020 school year the chance to take more classes geared toward their plans after graduation. Freshmen must complete the following 22 personalized credits before graduation:

  • English I and II AND two additional reading and writing credits aligned with the student’s Individual Learning Plan (ILP)
  • Algebra I and Geometry AND two additional mathematics credits aligned with the student’s ILP
  • 3 social studies credits (at least one aligned with the student’s ILP)
  • 3 lab-based science credits (at least one aligned with the student’s ILP)
  • 1/2 credit health
  • 1/2 credit physical education
  • 1 credit visual and performing arts
  • 6 additional credits aligned with the student’s ILP

The changes to the requirements also add “graduation qualifiers” and “graduation prerequisites” to ensure students have necessary math and reading skills, as well as experiences that can help them be prepared for life after high school.

All students who enter high school as freshmen at the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year and thereafter will be responsible for meeting one of eight graduation qualifiers in order to graduate from high school. Those qualifiers include:

  • Completing the pre-college curriculum as established by the Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE); OR
  • Meeting the benchmark score in one section of a college admissions or placement examination as established by CPE. A benchmark is the minimum score accepted at all of Kentucky’s public universities and colleges that allows the student to enter credit-bearing college or university classes in that particular content area; OR
  • Earning three postsecondary credit hours or more of a Kentucky Department of Education (KDE)-approved dual credit course with a grade of C or higher; OR
  • Completing one course and corresponding test meeting the following criteria:
    • AP with a score of three or higher; or
    • Cambridge Advanced International with a score at or above benchmark; or
    • International Baccalaureate with a score of five or higher; OR
  • Earning an industry certification as approved by the Kentucky Workforce Innovation Board; OR
  • Earning four credits from valid courses within a single KDE-approved career pathway; OR
  • Completing two years of a KDE-approved or Kentucky Labor Cabinet-approved pre-apprenticeship or apprenticeship; OR
  • Completing a KDE-approved process to verify 500 hours of exceptional work experience, or alternative requirements as prescribed in a student’s Individual Education Program (IEP).

Damien Sweeney, program coordinator for comprehensive school counseling from KDE’s Office of Career and Technical Education and Student Transition, said the new graduation requirements were designed to make it easier for districts to personalize each student’s education and make classes more relevant to their plans after their high school.

The new graduation qualifiers, he added, also have the potential to increase student success after graduation, which could ultimately improve the state’s economy.

“Each one of the graduation qualifiers is supported by data to show that they improve postsecondary student outcomes,” Sweeney said. “For example, as a result of students taking Advanced Placement, Cambridge, International Baccalaureate or dual credit classes, students are more prepared for college and earn higher grade point averages there. Students who earn industry certifications and/or complete four credits within a single career pathway are shown to earn higher wages in the workforce.”

Graduation qualifiers are only for students entering high school this fall and thereafter. Students who entered high school before the 2019-2020 school year are required to meet previous minimum high school graduation requirements.

Graduation Prerequisites Starting in 2020-2021 School Year
All students who enter high school as freshmen at the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year, and thereafter, will be responsible for demonstrating necessary skills in reading and mathematics – called graduation prerequisites – in one of three ways before graduation.

  • Scoring, at minimum, as Apprentice in reading and mathematics on the 10th-grade state-required assessments approved by the Kentucky Board of Education.
    • Students who do not score at least as an Apprentice on one or both assessments may retake the reading and/or mathematics assessments twice each year in the 11th and 12th grades; OR
  • Scoring, at minimum, Proficient on the 8th-grade state-required assessment for reading or mathematics or both reading and mathematics; OR
  • Collecting evidence to include the following:
    • The student’s Individual Learning Plan (ILP) that includes student transcript;
    • If applicable, the student’s Individual Education Plan (IEP), that includes evidence that the student has received specially designed instruction and related services in reading and mathematics;
    • Performance on the required state assessments;
    • Appropriate interventions, targeted to the student’s needs, provided to the student to ensure support was provided toward meeting the requirements outlined in this administrative regulation;
    • Student work demonstrating the students’ competency in reading and/or mathematics, as applicable; and
    • The student’s postsecondary plans.

The process shall require the principal to submit the collection of student evidence to the superintendent or designee for review and approval.

Students that enter high school before the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year do not need to meet graduation prerequisites to graduate.

Career Exploration
Another important change to note is that the state’s Career Cruising software contract ended June 30, 2018. Career Cruising is an internet-based career exploration and planning tool that was used to explore career and college options. This change came as a result of Kentucky completely revamping the ILP, a tool intended to help students search for career options, locate scholarship opportunities, explore the employability outlooks and compare colleges.

“We used to have each student do the same thing by using a single platform (Career Cruising), but have shifted to a model that gives every single district the autonomy to create or purchase their own platform,” Sweeney said. “We believe this will empower districts to value the ILP and take ownership of it. As a result, we hope to see school become much more relevant to students, and to ensure their postsecondary plans align with everything they do in school.”

All students in grades 6 to 12 are required to participate in their district’s ILP program. Local school districts have the flexibility to design an ILP program or process to best meet the needs of their students. With a well-designed program, districts and schools have the opportunity to offer an advising system that helps all students in grades 6 to 12 learn about and plan for postsecondary or workforce goals.

Remember that when looking at the new high school graduation requirements, these are the minimum requirements and districts can adjust them to fit the needs of its students. To get a better understanding of how these new requirements will affect your child specifically, call your child’s school to learn how it will be implementing these changes.

 

More Information from Kentucky Teacher:

Commissioner’s Comments:

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    • Here is a document that compares the old and the new graduation requirements. They are not changed every year. Going through the process to change graduation requirements is time intensive. The process for these changes began in April 2018.

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