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Kentucky Graduation Rate Among Nation's Highest, College & Career Readiness Up

Preliminary data shows Kentucky posted an 86 percent graduation rate in 2013, among the highest rates in the nation.

That rate, combined with an increase in the number of students prepared to be successful after high school graduation, is the “latest proof of measurable, transformational improvement over the past four years in the state’s education system,” state leaders say.

“When parents send their children off to school, they want to know that our schools are on the right track. They want to know that not only will their children learn the skills they will need to be successful later in life, they want to know that the schools are making continuous adjustments to enhance and improve the education experience for all students,” said Gov. Steve Beshear in a joint press conference with Education Commissioner Terry Holliday. “In reviewing the last four years, we can assure parents that our schools are indeed succeeding, and are becoming models for schools in other states to follow.”

This year Kentucky is using a more accurate way to measure the number of students who graduate – the same way nearly every other state measures graduation rates. Comparing with the most recent data available from other states (2011), even accounting for their improvement, Kentucky’s rate is among the highest.

Meanwhile, the college-and career-readiness rate is up 20 percent from 2010. While only about a third of high school graduates were considered ready three years ago, initial data now show more than half – 54 percent –– are ready to take the next step into credit-bearing college courses or a postsecondary training program.

State leaders pointed to the passage and implementation of Senate Bill 1 in 2009 as the beginning of the latest and most significant round of focused improvements in Kentucky, not only for student achievement, but also for student expectations, meaningful assessments, and college and career preparation.

“The passage of Senate Bill 1 in 2009 created a sense of urgency, and set the stage for transforming our education system to meet the needs of 21st-century students,” Holliday said. “Across the country, educators are rushing to prepare their students to meet the complex and constantly evolving demands of the new global economy. I’m proud that we are on the forefront of that effort here in Kentucky, but I am most excited about what it means for Kentucky students.”

SB 1 requires more rigorous standards, aligned assessments, a balanced accountability system, and support for educators to implement the new system. The goal is to ensure students are ready for college and career. Since that time, Kentucky schools have implemented more meaningful and data-driven assessments, and national organizations have named Kentucky as a standard-bearer in education reform.

Raising the graduation rate

An initiative called Graduate Kentucky focused the state’s attention on the necessity of staying in school and graduating. It includes:

Increasing the compulsory school age to 18 – Senate Bill 97, approved in the 2013 General Assembly, cleared the way for districts to adopt a policy raising the compulsory school age to 18 starting in the 2015-16 school year. To date, 128 of the state’s 173 school districts have adopted the “Graduate Kentucky” standard and more are in the process of doing so. The new compulsory school age policy will become mandatory in the 2017-18 school year.

Persistence to Graduation Tool – This data-driven tool identifies students who may be off track for promotion to the next grade level or to graduate on time. Drawing information from the current and prior academic year, the tool calculates a risk value for each student. Each school may then determine the necessary and appropriate supports and interventions for students who may be off track for graduation.

Preparing all students for college, careers

SB 1 recognized the economic imperative of having more students graduate from high school that had achieved college- and career-readiness in addition to basic skills proficiency. Since 2009, Kentucky schools have made great strides in aligning curriculum and training with the goal of preparing every student for college and career after high school graduation. Some of those initiatives include:

Aligned, rigorous academic standards – More rigorous standards, aligned with college expectations, will better prepare students to compete globally and equip them with the knowledge and skills like critical thinking and problem solving that they need in the 21st century.

Kentucky was the first state to adopt, implement and test the Common Core State Standards in English/language arts and mathematics(known as the Kentucky Core Academic Standards) in the 2011 school year.

Additionally, in June 2013, the Kentucky Board of Education was the second in the nation to adopt the Next-Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Kentucky educators are in the process of writing new social studies standards based on a framework developed by a coalition of states and national social studies content organizations. Arts and humanities standards will be considered by the Kentucky Board of Education once they are finalized in spring of 2014.

Career and technical education – Kentucky is in the process of developing and implementing a new model of secondary career and technical education with an emphasis on innovation and integration of core academics, 21st-century skills, project-based learning and the establishment of full-time career and technical education (CTE) programs. This effort recognizes career and technical education as a viable alternative career pathway for students. In addition to increasing graduation rates, this effort also supports increased college- and career-readiness.

Innovative approaches to raising student achievement – The Kentucky General Assembly enacted House Bill 37, which created “Districts of Innovation.” Its intent is to offer Kentucky public school districts the opportunity to come up with new or creative alternatives to existing instructional and administrative practices, while providing relieffrom certain administrative regulations and statutory provisions in an effort to improve student learning.

Kentucky earns national recognition

In a press release, Beshear and Holliday also announced that a recent Harvard study confirms the state’s progress, with Kentucky ranking eighth in student performance improvement in the last two decades. Another study says

Kentucky has recorded better than expected gains and is leading the way as a high performing state among those receiving waivers from the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

In the annual Quality Counts report of key education indicators, this year for the first time, Kentucky broke into the top 10. The state ranked 10th, moving up from 34th place in 2010. This reflects efforts to improve teaching, raise student achievement and many other variables related to public education.

From the Commonwealth of Kentucky