State education chief taking a “step back” from proposed high school graduation changes

‘High quality charter schools’ are a tool to help achievement in education, commissioner says

Kentucky Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis talking about next steps for charter schools in Kentucky.
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Kentucky Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis talking about next steps for charter schools in Kentucky.

Kentucky Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis on Monday announced revisions to his controversial minimum high school graduation requirements proposal following significant push back from educators and others.

He acknowledged that he was taking a “step back” in part because some school districts could not provide the multiple paths to college and career readiness. Lewis said that the revised recommendations don’t go as far as he would have preferred.

“We received constructive feedback from stakeholders across the state and have consequently made revisions to the proposal that we hope will result in a high school diploma that meets the needs of all Kentucky students and the future workforce of the Commonwealth,” said Lewis.

The Kentucky Board of Education is set to review the changes Wednesday at its regular meeting in Frankfort.

Critics have expressed concern about required passage of a test to demonstrate basic competency on 10th grade reading and mathematics before students could graduate.

The revised proposal includes two main changes, including the introduction of graduation prerequisites. If the proposal is approved, students will be able to demonstrate basic competency in reading and math in one of three ways:

A student’s 10th grade state-required assessments meeting the minimum criteria in reading and mathematics;

A student’s eighth grade state-required assessment rating of proficient or higher for reading or mathematics or both reading and mathematics, if applicable; or

A student collection of evidence that they are competent which could include transcripts and tests scores.

The “transition readiness” component has been removed from the proposal in an effort to promote equity among districts and students. Resources can vary greatly between districts, and some educators and others believed “transition readiness” would have put an undue burden on smaller or financially strapped districts by having to provide additional courses to students, Lewis said.

Under the revised proposal, students could choose one of seven graduation qualifiers that include test scores, certifications and completion of specified courses.

The Department of Education believes these qualifiers are more representative of the varying availability of courses students currently have access to, thus creating more equitable requirements, a news release said.

The Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence and the Kentucky School Boards Association were among the groups that had earlier asked Lewis to delay the changes.

The school boards association officials previously said its concerns included the belief that the plan would further exacerbate school resource inequities already existing across the state, cause the graduation rate to drop and cause the workforce participation rate to decrease.