Politics

Kentucky Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis has revised his proposal for high schoolers to demonstrate they’re ready to graduate.

The changes come a little less than two days before the state board of education is scheduled to vote on the measure.

Under Lewis’ original proposal, students would have to prove they were “transition ready” by meeting benchmark test scores on college entrance exams, getting on-the-job experience or passing college-level courses. They would also have to pass basic reading and math tests before they could graduate or have a portfolio approved by the local superintendent

After receiving criticism from teachers and education advocates during a public hearing last week, Lewis revised the proposal to add more options for students to show they are career- or college-ready.

“It is a step back, to be frank. The concern from the field was that the step forward we were proposing was too big a step,” Lewis said.

Under the new proposal, students would have to choose one of seven options to show they are ready for work or higher education:

  • Complete a pre-college curriculum as established by the Council on Postsecondary Education
  • Receive a benchmark score on a college admissions test.
  • Complete a dual credit course with at least a C
  • Receive a benchmark score on an AP, IB or Cambridge Advanced test
  • Receive an industry certification
  • Complete four credits in a KDE-approved career pathway
  • Complete 500 hours of work experience

Lewis said he made the changes because some school districts, especially rural ones, don’t have as many resources available for students to meet the proposed transition standards.

Current eight graders will have to complete the career or college readiness requirement by the time they graduate high school

Current seventh graders and younger will also have to demonstrate basic competency in reading and math.

Critics have expressed concerns that the standards could lead to a dramatic drop in Kentucky’s graduation rate, which is one of the highest in the nation.

Lewis said he would push for schools to receive more funding to help them tackle the new requirements, but said that schools should already be doing a better job making sure students can read and write.

“It is a reasonable expectation today with the current level of funding to expect that kids can read and do basic math before they graduate from high school,” Lewis said.

The Kentucky Board of Education will vote on the proposal on Wednesday, Dec 5.

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.