FRANKFORT, Ky. (April 6, 2020) – The Kentucky Association of School Administrators (KASA) recently sent out a survey to 260 Kentucky principals seeking their feedback on the two options about how high school graduation requirements will be met for seniors during the 2019-2020 school year.
The two options are being considered due to all 172 Kentucky school districts, 53 area technology centers, Kentucky School for the Blind and Kentucky School for the Deaf ceasing in-person classes and instituting non-traditional instruction after a recommendation made by Gov. Andy Beshear on March 16 to help control the spread of the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in communities across the state.
Currently, seniors are required to have a minimum of 22 credit hours. Local districts can add requirements that include credits, completing an Individual Learning Plan, community service and transition readiness to fit the needs of their students. However, the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) is issuing guidance encouraging local boards to consider waiving any additional hours so that their seniors – as long as they have met the 22 credit hours required by the Kentucky Board of Education – will be able to graduate high school.
Another option would be for KDE and/or a local board of education to ask the Kentucky Board of Education (KBE) to waive the regulatory requirement for electives. Seniors are required by law to have seven elective credit hours. Under this option, seniors could graduate with a minimum of 15 total credit hours, which would eliminate the elective requirements.
KASA Executive Director Rhonda Caldwell discussed the results of the survey with the Education Continuation Task Force. Of the 260 principals that the survey was sent to, 65 responded.
Of the principals that responded, 55% felt that asking districts to waive local additions to graduation requirements would be the best choice for seniors. Some of the principals left comments stating that by this point in their high school careers, most seniors already have completed multiple electives. Others responded that since three grading periods have been completed this school year, non-traditional instruction should be used to support the students’ final grade.
The 45% of principals who voted for asking the KBE to waive electives felt this option would be the more feasible approach. Some even cited that many seniors are currently working extra hours because their parents have been laid off due to COVID-19.
By easing the restriction on electives, according to the surveyed principals, seniors will be able focus more on the courses that would impact their college decision. Students taking electives that impact their career pathway should continue these courses and complete their career pathway, they added.
Even though only 65 principals responded to the survey, Caldwell said she believes that this is still an accurate representation of the feelings throughout the Commonwealth.
“We do know that with the data we have, all of the geographical areas of the state and the high school populations are represented,” said Caldwell.
KASA President-Elect and Middlesboro High School (Middlesboro Independent) Principal Bob Bennett also said that the results of the survey are a fair representation.
“I suspect that the percentages would be roughly the same and adherence to the required minimum of 22 credits would be the preference,” said Bennett.
The survey had an additional question for the principals regarding what high school graduation could look like at the local level.
Of the 65 respondents, 24 suggested having a virtual ceremony. Other suggestions included a drive-through ceremony, a modified crowd size ceremony and delaying the ceremony due to the concerns of COVID-19.
“In terms of the graduation ceremony, it’s clear that there is no easy answer,” Caldwell said.
Graduation requirements and high school graduation ceremonies are both local decisions. KDE is, however, working on a guidance document for districts when making decisions about the senior class of 2020.
The document will show the regulations that pertain to graduation and questions for consideration when making these decisions.
“Really meaningful thought should be given to each one of these considerations,” said KDE Associate Commissioner Amanda Ellis. “We’re encouraging districts to think deeply about what’s working and what’s not. … In your decision-making, think through these details that you may not have thought about before.”
Even though a formal decision on graduation requirements has not been made yet, the guidance document does reflect preference for local school districts to waive any graduation requirement beyond the state minimum credits required. Districts could still ask the KBE for a waiver to allow them to implement option two.
Interim Education Commissioner Kevin C. Brown said that the KBE will weigh in on the topic at its April 9 meeting. While KDE is still looking at both options, said Brown, at this time its guidance is to use the first option and to waive any additional credit hours added on by local districts.
Also discussed at the Education Continuation Task Force meeting was the waiver that was issued on April 3 by Brown and approved by Lt. Gov. and Secretary of the Kentucky Education and Workforce Cabinet Jacqueline Coleman suspending the requirement that students who plan to graduate from high school in 2020 pass a civics test, as well as certain requirements for completing an early high school graduation program.
Brown issued the waiver under authority granted by Executive Order 2020-243, which was issued by Gov. Andy Beshear on March 18 and grants agencies the ability to suspend statutes in response to COVID-19, subject to approval by cabinet secretaries.
Senior Director of Kentucky Education Television (KET) Tonya Crum spoke to the task force about resources being offered by KET to help counter the fatigue of students and families during non-traditional instruction.
KET has modified its weekday daytime schedule on its main channel. As part of KET’s mission to ensure Kentucky students of every age have access to high-quality, free educational resources, its weekday daytime schedule on its main channel was changed to provide educational content to support learning at home.
With these broadcast programs, paired with a rich library of online resources, KET is helping address the critical need for quality distance learning resources. Families and educators can visit KET.org/learnathome for a toolkit that provides free high-quality educational resources for children of all ages.
“When the teacher went to turn on KET we always got excited,” Brown said reminiscing on his school days. “The fact that it’s still going on and it’s now more robust than ever, it’s such a huge resource to Kentucky.”
The Education Continuation Task Force will meet again virtually on April 20.