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CPE offers flexibility on college readiness standards during pandemic

Campuses have opportunity to assess readiness indicators and student placement

FRANKFORT, Ky. — The Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE) is allowing greater flexibility for the 2020-21 academic year in how campuses assess student readiness for college-level work.

CPE’s college readiness standards, outlined in state regulation, help campuses determine course placement following admission to a public institution. Students who fail to meet the standards must take co-requisite courses, which allow students to obtain academic help while still earning college credit. They also receive support through peer tutoring, extra instruction time or other activities.

In a typical year, Kentucky calls on campuses to measure readiness for course placement through one or more of the following standardized tests: the ACT, SAT, KYOTE and GED exams, along with the ALEKS assessment program. However, added flexibility for 2020-21 clears the way for institutions to determine their own readiness measures this fall.

Melissa Bell, vice president for academic affairs and student success at CPE, said COVID-19 has made standardized testing more difficult, if not impossible in some cases. She said institutions requested the added flexibility this year with students in mind.

“We’re facing an unprecedented year for both students and campuses, and that demands some special consideration on the regulatory level,” Bell said. “We also have a unique opportunity to reflect on the true definition of college readiness and consider improvements to our process. Campuses are already innovating on alternative indicators that could help redefine our standards in future years.”

Institutions may choose to continue using the same standards as before, and many Kentucky students likely completed the ACT test before the onset of COVID-19. However, standardized exams produce the best results when proctored – a challenge with online testing – and some students lack internet access for online exams.

The council plans to track readiness and placement decisions across campuses to determine how students are faring amid any changes. The information will provide a basis for possible revisions to the statewide standards moving forward.

Bell said CPE will still hold campuses accountable on statewide performance metrics. She said campuses are as committed as ever to student success, and justifications for using new indicators would still apply once the pandemic has subsided.

Research shows that college-ready students are more likely to graduate on time at less cost, obtain a higher wage job and pay off debt at a faster pace.

The council partners with the Kentucky Department of Education and the Education Professional Standards Board to support college readiness on all levels. That includes middle and high school preparation and advising programs, college support services and teacher preparation programs. CPE also works with postsecondary institutions on dual credit courses, advanced placement and international baccalaureate programs.

“Kentucky has made significant headway in improving college readiness in recent years, and campuses have done an exceptional job supporting students through the outbreak,” Bell said. “Now we have a window to assess our gains and implement some upgrades overall. We look forward to seeing how campuses meet the challenge.”