By ADAM BEAM, Associated Press
FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky graduates nearly 90 percent of its high school seniors every year, one of the highest rates in the country.
But last year, state officials said, only 65 percent of those graduates met standards preparing them for college or a career. That’s why the Kentucky Board of Education voted Wednesday to adopt something many other states are abandoning: exit exams.
The board, appointed by Republican Gov. Matt Bevin, voted unanimously to give key approval for new minimum high school graduation requirements. State officials will next take public comments on the new rules, with the board scheduled to vote on any changes in December.
The new rules mean that, to graduate, students must meet college or career readiness standards, like completing advanced placement courses or an approved apprenticeship program. They would also have to take a test beginning in the 10th grade to measure their math and reading skills. Only students who show “minimum competency” can graduate, with some exceptions. The tests would begin in 2022.
Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis, citing research from the Kentucky Center for Statistics, said of the more than 26,000 Kentucky high school graduates in 2010 who went to college, more than 16,000 of them did not complete any programs. That group now has average salaries of about $20,000 a year, while the 6,800 students who completed four-year degrees have average salaries of more than $31,000.
“We hand high school diplomas to kids, telling them to their faces they are ready to go on when we know in our hearts that all we’ve really given them is a certificate of attendance,” Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis said. “We cannot continue in that respect.”