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Our View: Coalition right to ask KDE to postpone vote

A coalition of organizations is asking the Kentucky Department of Education to hold off on approving new graduation requirements.

The coalition is justifiably asking for KDE to consider more heavily the impacts the changes would have, primarily in regards to students with achievement gaps.

In a statement released this week, the “coalition asks that the Kentucky Board of Education table the second reading of the proposal scheduled for October 3, opting instead for deeper discussion and further evaluation before approving a policy that will have far reaching implications for Kentucky’s students.”

The coalition includes organizations representing business, education advocates, civil rights groups and community leaders with an interest in making sure all students have a fair opportunity to be ready for next steps after graduation.

The proposed changes have drawn significant criticism recently.

According to the statement, “The coalition members completely agree that Kentucky is graduating too many young people without the college- and career-ready skills they need for their future, and members believe the Board is taking a positive step by reframing graduation requirements with a focus on foundational academics and greater opportunity for personalized pathways.

“Of primary concern to the coalition is closing persistent achievement gaps for children of color, those whose families have less income, English language learners and students who are challenged by learning differences, as well as providing more opportunities for all students to reach levels of academic excellence during important formative years.”

The coalition is particularly concerned about minimum exit exam requirement in reading and mathematics, requirement for students to be transition ready to graduate and removal of algebra II as a requirement for all students. The  coalition offers some important questions to consider:

— What have other states experienced in implementing exit exams and what are the real impacts at the classroom and student-learning level? Has the experience in other states resulted in increased student achievement and success?

— If an exit exam is established, what remediation programs and supports will be offered for students not meeting the minimum proficiency standard?

— Similarly, what supports and professional development will be provided to teachers to help ensure students are challenged with rigorous curricula and afforded opportunities for excellence and not tracked to remediation only?

— How does the completion of Algebra II correlate with students meeting college readiness benchmarks on the ACT and later persistence and attainment in postsecondary education?

We want to see all students have a fair chance at college- and career-readiness. Re-evaluating graduation requirements is a necessary process, but it is vital the process create avenues to close achievement gaps, especially for some of the most at-risk students.

This coalition is right to ask the KDE to consider carefully and more thoroughly the potential impacts of these proposed changes.