State considers enhanced high school diploma: "Kentucky Rising"

Students filled a Henry Clay High School hallway. Photo by Charles Bertram | Staff
Students filled a Henry Clay High School hallway. Photo by Charles Bertram | Staff Herald-Leader

By the 2016-17 school year, the state could have a new program, called Kentucky Rising, that will create an enhanced high school diploma that would allow graduates to get scholarships and early college admissions, Education Commissioner Terry Holliday said Wednesday.

Holliday said he thought Kentucky Rising, which would establish criteria showing that students were ready for the global work force, would have more impact on Kentucky than when the General Assembly passed legislation in 2009 calling for more stringent academic standards.

Holliday discussed the program at a meeting of the Kentucky Board of Education.

"It's huge," Holliday said. "I think it's going to be a critical initiative for economic development in our state."

The idea behind the diploma is to create a stronger work force that meets the requirements of foreign industries that are directly investing in Kentucky, and industries that are creating trade with other countries, Holliday said.

Kentucky employers who have foreign investments "can't find the skilled work force that they need," Holliday said. "We think it would elevate more Kentucky students to be more competitive at universities and careers."

In January, a joint meeting is planned for the chairmen and vice-chairmen of the Council on Postsecondary Education, the Education Professional Standards Board and the Kentucky Board of Education and their agency heads to gain support for the initiative.

Businesses will have to help state education officials determine the criteria, Holliday said.

The University of Kentucky has been a strong early partner in the initiative, he said.

In other action, the state board voted to provide intensive management assistance to the Menifee County school district. Holliday had cited a lack of efficiency and effectiveness in administration of the school district, particularly in the areas of planning, operational support, fiscal management, personnel administration, and instructional management in recommending that the state board place Menifee County in state assistance.

"State assistance" means the Kentucky Department of Education will provide management assistance to the district to correct deficiencies found in a management audit earlier this year. Only two other districts — Robertson County and Fleming County — currently have the designation of "state assistance." The oversight is not as extreme as the management that the state exercises over Breathitt County schools. District officials in Menifee, which has a little more than 1,000 students, have notified the state that they will not appeal the state-assistance designation.

Also, associate commissioner Hiren Desai said Wednesday that he expects the state board of education to take up at its next meeting in February a request from the Fayette County Board of Education for a waiver to build a proposed high school on Winchester Road with more square footage than the state Department of Education usually allows. Fayette County Superintendent Tom Shelton has said the campus would house a typical high school and an existing special program called the Carter G. Woodson Academy, which is why an auxiliary gymnasium was needed, adding to the square footage.

Desai said in a letter to Shelton in October that a waiver would be needed because if the district continues to pursue the project at its present size and no reduction is made to bring the building into compliance with the law, the state department cannot issue approval of any phase, advertisement for bids, bond sales or contracts for construction. The Fayette County school board voted Nov. 24 to ask for the waiver. Desai said he had not received the request as of Wednesday.

Fayette County chief operating officer Mary Wright said Wednesday that Desai should have the request by the end of this week.

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader