State board may waive some high school graduation requirements

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – The state Board of Education has waived a number of requirements to give local school districts flexibility to manage operations and student requirements during the extended closure created by the coronavirus pandemic.

And those waivers, including possible graduation requirements likely will continue the board said during a meeting this week.

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The board voted to temporarily waive several regulations in order to provide flexibility to school districts during the COVID-19 emergency:

  • The deadline for districts to adopt a school calendar for the 2020-2021 school year was extended to June 30, and the deadline for districts to file new or amended school calendars with the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) was pushed back to July 31.
  • The deadline for districts to submit new or amended applications for the Non-Traditional Instruction Program for the 2020-2021 school year was moved to June 15.
  • Regulations applying to assessment, accountability and reporting for the 2019-2020 school year were waived as the next step after the U.S. Department of Education granted a waiver to KDE from statewide assessment, accountability and reporting requirements. KDE notified superintendents March 24 that K-PREP testing for the 2019-2020 school year had been canceled.
  • Renewal timelines will be extended for the All STARS preschool rating program for sites subject to renewal through July 31.
  • The requirement calling for at least two home visits per child per year for state-funded preschool programs for 4-year-olds is waived for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year.

Interim Education Commissioner Kevin C. Brown told the board there likely will be a need for more waivers in the future as KDE and other education stakeholders determine where schools and districts need flexibility to continue to serve their students during the pandemic.

“We are on a rolling review process to determine what are the things getting in the way of education during this crisis,” Brown said.

One example could be a temporary relaxation of graduation requirements for the class of 2020, which was discussed during the meeting.

KDE Associate Commissioner Amanda Ellis told the board that local school districts have the option of waiving any additional graduation requirements beyond the 22 credits required by the state or petitioning the state board for relief that would eliminate elective requirements and lower the number of required credits to 15.

Students are required to have 22 credits to graduate from Kentucky schools: four credits in English, three in mathematics, three in science, three in social studies, one in visual and performing arts and one-half each in health and physical education.

However, most districts have additional requirements beyond the 22-credit minimum. Those requirements could be waived by local boards of education. In addition, districts could seek relief from KBE to eliminate the elective requirements, leaving only a requirement of 15 hours of core content.

Ellis said KDE has consulted with students, principals, superintendents and other stakeholders, and she said support for those two options is essentially split.

“I’ve had pros and cons shared with me on both,” she said. “The biggest difference would be electives, but we are not taking away from any of the core areas.”

Ellis said the board could consider individual waivers or a blanket waiver at a special meeting.

The board also heard a report on the suspension of the statutory requirements that students who plan to graduate from high school in 2020 pass a civics test, as well as certain statutory requirements for completing an early high school graduation program.

Brown, KDE associate commissioners and other members of KDE’s leadership team also reported to the board on how the COVID-19 emergency has impacted the agency’s work. Brown lauded the work of the KDE staff and of school and district staffs across Kentucky.

“I just can’t say enough about the responsiveness of the superintendents, local boards of education, teachers and staff all across the state,” he said. “We know that we still have challenges, but we’ve also had some amazing things go on.”

The board heard an update from Jefferson County Superintendent Marty Pollio on the district’s action to implement the corrective action plan that resulted from a settlement agreement with KDE. He said the district is proposing changes to its student assignment plan, which he said needs to be revised to better support all students.