Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence

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Press Release: Board of Education Approved Graduation Requirements Minimal – Not Meaningful

December 5, 2018
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Brison Harvey, Communications and Engagement Manager
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Board of Education Approved Graduation Requirements Minimal – Not Meaningful

Ensuring Highly Effective Teachers in Every Kentucky Classroom Will Increase Student Performance and Close Gaps

The Kentucky Board of Education today voted to move forward proposed changes to the state’s high school graduation requirements. The Commissioner’s changes to the proposal, announced earlier this week, reflected some concerns. However, many previous concerns went unanswered and new questions were raised.
Our concerns remain regarding the reading and mathematics assessment requirement whether it will prove to be a real and productive strategy to increase student learning. Additionally, the transition readiness requirement has been changed to an altered list of graduation qualifiers.  Given that the accountability model already contains robust transition readiness indicators, we question whether this is a necessary component and the impact of the misalignment with the new accountability model. These changes will mean Kentucky will have two different sets of transition indicators: one as graduation qualifiers and one for the new accountability model.  The question remains as to whether two sets of standards for identifying transition readiness will cause confusion in how schools respond in implementation and if it will create an unintended ceiling for student outcomes.
However, there is shared ground upon which to build consensus moving forward, starting with the broad agreement that too many Kentucky students are not getting what they need out of high school. The new graduation framework does provide for foundational knowledge, personalized pathways, and competency-based and experiential learning, all of which offer promise for positive results.
Due to our concerns outlined during public comment, we hope the Board remains open to authentic engagement with stakeholders about how to make the Kentucky high school diploma more meaningful. We hope the board’s discussion today marks the beginning rather than the end of a broader conversation that goes beyond minimum requirements to provide opportunities for educators and community members to collaboratively craft solutions that ensure opportunities for all students to succeed and excel through:

  • High expectations for all students through increased access to rigorous coursework and adequate supports.
  • Greater access to early post-secondary opportunities, including relevant career pathways.
  • A highly-qualified teacher in every classroom, every year.

We are committed to ensuring that citizens remain engaged to support an educational experience for all students that better prepares them for life after high school.
“Ensuring a meaningful high school diploma for more Kentucky students is one of the most critical issues facing the Commonwealth”, said Brigitte Blom Ramsey, executive director of the Prichard Committee. “Students need to be prepared to fill the jobs available today and to be the job creators of Kentucky’s future. Their diploma must be evidence that they have mastered rigorous content and are developing the skills increasingly in demand by the workforce such as creativity, critical thinking, and collaboration. The proposal approved by the KBE does little to ensure that. There is still much to be done to ensure a meaningful, not a minimal, diploma.”
In other business, the Kentucky Board of Education outlined its priorities for the 2019 legislative session. Their agenda hit a broad number of topics, including increased parent and community involvement on school-based decision-making councils, flexibility in district innovation, development of a third grade reading and math retention policy, and an intentional focus on state and district policies that ensure a high-quality, effective teacher in every classroom every year.
Supporting effective teaching is critical to closing achievement gaps and supporting every student to achieve proficiency and beyond. Research is clear—educational excellence requires high quality teachers in every classroom. As discussed by the Board and written in our 2013 Effective Teaching report, high-quality professional learning, teacher leadership opportunities, and professional compensation are key factors that help to build a talented teacher workforce.
The Board also proposed a legislative priority to implement a third grade retention policy to ensure reading and math proficiency. While we support efforts to increase third grade proficiency, we recognize that the path to achieving proficiency starts with high-quality early learning opportunities. By increasing student learning time, providing a knowledge-rich curriculum, and early and effective intervention in the early childhood years, students have greater opportunities to achieve proficiency by third grade in reading and mathematics.
“Increasing reading and math proficiency by third grade is a strategic priority for the Prichard Committee and we’re pleased it is also a focus for the Department. We look forward to working with policymakers to ensure research-based structures and supports are in place to better support Kentucky’s youngest learners,” said Brigitte Blom Ramsey, executive director of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence. “We also look forward to learning more about the Kentucky Board of Education’s ideas around increasing parental involvement and elevating the critical importance of effective teaching to increase student performance and close achievement gaps. Community engagement and high-quality teaching are foundational elements of success in education.”
We will continue to study, inform, and engage citizens through our website and social media platforms. For more information, please refer to our website
The Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence is an independent, nonpartisan, citizen-led organization working to improve education in Kentucky – early childhood through postsecondary.