By Jacob Perkins

(FRANKFORT, KY) – At its May 1 meeting, the Superintendents’ Advisory Council (SAC) discussed ways that districts can reduce the number of novice students in their schools.

Susan Greer, education recovery director from the Kentucky Department of Education’s (KDE) Office of Continuous Improvement and Support, gave an update on how continuous improvement coaches are playing a role in reducing the achievement gaps throughout the state.

KDE has six continuous improvement coaches that travel the state and are in schools every day. The objective of the coaches is to support schools and districts as they strive to close achievement gaps and positively impact student growth and achievement.

From the 2016-2017 to 2017-2018 school year, the average Proficient and Distinguished reading and mathematics K-PREP scores for schools that received full services from the continuous improvement coaches increased almost 2 points in reading and more than 5 points in mathematics. The average Novice levels also decreased in these schools, with a drop of almost 5 points in reading and more than 3 points in mathematics.

“We know that we cannot just continue to have gap students maybe improve a little bit,” Greer said. “We want to celebrate that, but we understand that some students are already three years behind. Half a year’s worth of growth is not going to get them where they need to be.”

Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis and David Horseman, associate commissioner for the Office of Career and Technical Education and Student Transition, provided a refresher on the new graduation requirements and how it will affect novice reduction in Kentucky.

Lewis said that the goal should be to get students out of the Novice level and into the Apprentice level.

“We want kids to demonstrate basic competence in reading and math,” Lewis said. “It’s not about high achievement, that’s not the goal. This is to ensure that when kids graduate, they have basic skills. It’s not intended to be a ceiling, it’s intended to be a floor.”

The new 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. Freshmen must complete the following 22 personalized credits before graduation:

  • English I and II AND 2 additional English Language Arts 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 credits Social Studies (at least 1 aligned with the student’s ILP)
  • 3 credits Science (at least 1 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

In addition, students must complete one of eight graduation qualifiers. These qualifiers help ensure graduates are prepared for what comes after high school. Students will be required to do ONE of the following:

  • Complete the precollege curriculum as established by the Council on Postsecondary Education; OR
  • Meet the benchmark score in one section (such as English, Reading, Math or Science) of a college admissions test (such as ACT or SAT) or placement exam as established by the Council on Postsecondary Education; OR
  • Earn three postsecondary credit hours or more of a Kentucky Department of Education (KDE)-approved dual credit class with a grade of C or higher; OR
  • Complete one class and corresponding test meeting the following criteria:
    • Advanced Placement (AP) with a score of three or higher; or
    • Cambridge Advanced International (CAI) with a score at or above benchmark; or
    • International Baccalaureate (IB) with a score of five or higher; OR
  • Earn an industry certification as approved by the Kentucky Workforce Innovation Board; OR
  • Earn four credits from classes within a single KDE-approved career pathway; OR
  • Complete two years of a KDE-approved or Kentucky Labor Cabinet-approved pre-apprenticeship or apprenticeship; OR
  • Complete a KDE-approved process to verify 500 hours of exceptional work experience or alternative requirements as outlined in a student’s Individual Education Plan (IEP).

Students entering high school in the fall of 2020 and beyond also will have to meet a graduation prerequisite. The graduation prerequisite require students to demonstrate basic competency in reading and math in one of three ways before graduation:

  • Score at least Proficient on the 8th-grade state-required assessment for reading and/or mathematics; OR
  • Meet the minimum KBE-approved required score within the Apprentice range in reading and mathematics on the 10th-grade state-required assessments;
    • Students who do not meet the minimum score on one or both assessments may retake the reading and/or mathematics assessments twice each year in the 11th and 12th grades of high school; OR
  • Complete a collection of evidence to include the following:
    • The student’s ILP, including a student transcript;
    • If applicable, the student’s IEP, including evidence that the student has received specially designed instruction and related services in reading and mathematics;
    • Student performance on the required state assessments;
    • Appropriate interventions, targeted to the student’s needs, to ensure support was provided to the student;
    • Student work demonstrating the students’ competency in reading and/or mathematics, as applicable; and
    • The student’s post-high school plans.

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

The high school graduation requirements are aligned to the “profile of a graduate” described by post-secondary educators and business and industry leaders that say that high school graduates should be able to clearly communicate, achieve academically, critically think, adapt to change and collaborate.

Lewis told the superintendents that they will have a prominent role to play in sharing the new high school graduation requirements with families in their districts. Since KDE sets the minimum requirements, districts are free to increase the rigor of the requirements and will need to be clear in their communications with families.

“We (KDE) don’t want to do a lot of communication about the requirements to parents,” Lewis said. “When the district requirements are pushed out, they may look different than the state requirements. That would put the parents in a position where they’re not quite sure what’s going on … and we want to be supportive of the districts and the local boards.”