SSCRI States
West Virginia

College and Career Readiness in Kentucky

Kentucky has a rich history of education reform. The Kentucky Education Reform Act (KERA) in 1990 revamped Kentucky’s education system in the areas of finance, governance and curriculum in an attempt to provide equal educational opportunities for all of the state’s children. It set higher educational standards and introduced new approaches to statewide assessments. From 1990 to 2000, the Kentucky Legislature enacted major reforms in K-12, postsecondary and adult education. While each set of reforms was ambitious, each addressed just one segment of education, and none was specifically aimed at improving students’ college readiness. Additional action in 2006 took education reform further:

  • The Kentucky Board of Education (KBE) approved an increase in high school graduation requirements and approved revised core curriculum standards in literacy and mathematics.
  • House Bill 197 established a pilot program in end-of-course testing for Algebra I and II, and geometry.
  • Senate Bill 130 required, beginning in 2008-2009, a series of diagnostic assessments to assess high school readiness (in grade eight), college readiness (in grade 10), and college admissions and placement examinations (using ACT test scores in grade 11).

Kentucky's Progress

In 2008, passage of Senate Bill 1 established a path for Kentucky’s implementation of a statewide college-readiness agenda and addressed the cornerstone of the SREB model readiness agenda in its call for the revision of core content standards through a collaborative process between the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) and the Council for Postsecondary Education (CPE). The legislation called for revised content standards throughout K-12 that align with postsecondary expectations to ensure that the school standards are common to introductory course expectations in postsecondary education. Locating coordination of the SREB project within the offices of the Governor and the Secretary of Education and Workforce Development was a very positive sign of high-level support. Senate Bill 1 was a major step forward in that it had the potential to break through key areas of impasse that stalled reforms in recent years. In fact, it established one of the best general outlines of a statewide college-readiness initiative in the nation. The bill established an ambitious timeline. The standards revision process for mathematics was completed in early 2010. Revision of the language arts standards by K-12 and postsecondary education will be finalized by December 2010. The standards will become the basis for a new state testing system to be implemented in 2011-2012. The CPE and the KDE partnered to develop a unified strategic plan with four key strategies to promote college and career readiness and degree completion, including accelerated learning options, intervention programs, college and career readiness advising, and college persistence programs. Cross-agency work teams that include the Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS), four-year institutions and other external agency partners developed goals and action plans, identified useful resources, and determined expected outcome measures for each of the strategies. The teams also developed metrics to measure progress on each of the legislative goals. The agencies are partnering with secondary and postsecondary institutions to implement the plan, with dates of implementation contingent upon available funding. The activities of the work teams will be ongoing and represent a model of collaboration with a shared vision of having all students prepared for postsecondary and career success.
For more information on Kentucky's efforts, see SREB's Kentucky Progress Report, 2009.

Kentucky's Standards and Assessments

Kentucky was the first state in the nation to adopt the Common Core State Standards in 2009 and is participating in the National Assessment Consortia. However, for the purpose of setting scale scores for the development of transitional courses, Kentucky decided to use the ACT test and test scores for placement into senior year courses until final national assessments on college and career readiness are prepared and adopted throughout the country.

Kentucky's Transitional Courses

The development of transitional courses was a key element in the state’s unified strategic plan and the focus of the Secondary Intervention Programs strategy. In response to Senate Bill 1, the CPE and KDE developed a unified strategy to reduce 2010 college remediation rates of recent high school graduates by at least 50 percent by 2014 — and to increase the college completion rates of students enrolled in one or more remedial classes by 3 percent annually from 2009 to 2014. To address college readiness for high school students, statewide teams of secondary and postsecondary educators were assembled to assist regional school districts and high schools in designing and implementing transitional mathematics and reading courses. Meetings of the state teams in 2010 resulted in the development of college-readiness transitional courses that center on a framework of content and concepts aligned with the revised Kentucky Core Academic Standards and with college- and career-readiness standards. The target audience is high school seniors who scored just below readiness benchmarks on the ACT (with scores of 16-18 in mathematics and/or 17-19 in reading). The mathematics and reading courses were launched in September 2010 and can be adapted to meet the specific needs and conditions in each high school. They may be offered as an actual full semester course or as an intervention for students before or after school, as a supplement to existing mathematics courses or as a course in which students have flexible entry and exit based on pre-assessment scores. The flexibility of the course is designed to provide schools with multiple options to meet students’ needs without compromising the other opportunities available to them. Click for transitional course information.

Kentucky's Teacher Development Efforts

Senate Bill 1 also directed the KDE and the Education Professional Standards Board (EPSB) to integrate new standards into teacher training and professional development. The KDE must disseminate standards to teacher training programs and ensure that the standards communicate expectations clearly and concisely to teachers so as to affect classroom instruction. Additionally, the KDE must provide for statewide teacher in-service training about the standards, and EPSB must provide training on new standards in all teacher preparation programs. The unified strategic plan lists strategies with goals for each strategy, and professional development is identified in several parts of the plan. For example, for postsecondary institutions, one of the goals is for all developmental education, college of education, and college of arts and sciences faculties to have access to training on the Kentucky Core Academic Standards by 2011.


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