Kentucky Readiness Policies


High School and Postsecondary Alignment

SREB’s Challenge to Lead 2020 goals call for states to align middle grades and high school policies with college-readiness standards, to recognize multiple paths to graduation and to provide students with diverse postsecondary options and resources. The following tabs summarize how Kentucky aligns its policies to promote smooth transitions for students through high school and beyond.  


College and Career Readiness Definitions

College readiness is the level of preparation a student needs to succeed in credit-bearing courses in college. ‘Succeed’ is defined as completing entry-level courses at a level of understanding and proficiency that prepares the student for subsequent courses. Kentucky’s system-wide standards of readiness guarantee students access to credit-bearing coursework without the need for remediation in high school or college coursework or intervention programming.


College and Career Planning in K-12

Starting in sixth grade, students develop Individual Learning Plans aligned with their academic and career interests. Each district must provide information on career opportunities and financial aid.

Students write their plans with the help of parents and school counselors; the plan outlines the student’s learning goals and helps guide the course of their studies through the middle grades, high school, and into college. The plan emphasizes postsecondary goal setting and the pursuit of a robust academic experience, including appropriate extracurricular activities and electives.

State law requires the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet to publish information on the employment and earnings of college graduates in the state, so that high school students can make better-informed decisions about future careers.

Kentucky administers a statewide, federally funded GEAR UP program to prepare middle grades and high school students for college and to create or expand programs that strengthen schools.

The state administers the ACT for all 11th-grade students.

The Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority provides access to multiple online tools for Kentucky students and their families to help them plan, apply, and pay for college. Current Web resources can be found at and


High School Graduation Requirements

Course and Diploma Requirements for Students Entering the Ninth Grade in 2019 and Beyond

Students must complete at least 22 units to earn a standard high school diploma. Students must complete one or more of the following requirements:

  1. Complete the precollege curriculum as established by the Council on Postsecondary Education.
  2. Earn a benchmark score on one section of a college admissions or placement exam.
  3. Complete three postsecondary credit hours or more of a KDE-approved dual credit course with a grade of C or higher.
  4. Complete one course that meets the following criteria:
    1. Advance placement with a score of three or higher;
    2. Cambridge Advanced International with a score of E or higher; or
    3. International baccalaureate with a score of five or higher.
  5. Obtain a Kentucky Workforce Innovation Board approved industry certification.
  6. Complete four credits from valid courses within a KDE-approved career pathway.
  7. Receive verification for completing 500 hours of exceptional work experience or alternative requirements as prescribed in a student’s IEP.
  8. Complete two years in an approved pre-apprenticeship or apprenticeship program.



Required Courses




English I

English II

Two additional English courses

Options for additional English courses include English III, English IV, and other dual credit and AP options. 



Algebra I


Two additional math courses

Options four additonal math courses include Algebra II, Precalculus, College Algebra, Calculus, dual credit CTE math, and other dual credit and AP options aligned with the student’s ILP.



Lab-based science experiences

Options include Chemistry, Physics, Bilology, CSI Forensics, and other dual credit and AP options. One course must be aligned with the student’s ILP.

Social Studies


three social studies courses

Options include Government, U.S. History, World Civilizations/History, and other dual credit and AP options. One course must be aligned with the student’s ILP.



Credit to include the content strands of individual well-being, consumer decision, personal wellness, mental wellness, and community services

Physical Education 


Credit to include the content strands of personal wellness, psychomotor, and lifetime activity

History and Appreciation of Visual and Performing Arts


Credit to include the content strands of arts, dance, music, theatre, and visual arts or a standards-based specialized arts course based on the student’s Individual Learning Plan.

Credits aligned with a student’s Individualized Learning Plan



Credit to include the content strands of individual well-being, consumer decision, personal wellness, mental wellness, and community services

Total Credits



To be eligible for graduation, students must also receive instruction in financial literacy, demonstrate essential workplace skills and competency in technology, and maintain and update an Individualized Learning Plan each year of high school.

Assessment Requirements

High school students take ACT Quality Core end-of-course tests in English 0I, Algebra II, Biology I, and U.S. History. Students must also pass a Civics test. Grade 10 students may be administered the ACT depending on available state funding. Students in grade 11 take both the Kentucky Performance Rating for Educational Progress exam and the ACT. Twelfth grade students who do not meet ACT benchmarks must take the KYOTE, or Kentucky Online Testing in designated subjects. Students enrolled in CTE courses may take the KOSSA or Kentucky Occupational Skills Standards Assessment after completing two credits as well as the ACT WorkKeys upon enrolling in a third CTE credit in an approved career pathway.


Accelerated Learning Options in High School

Competency-Based Credit

The Kentucky State Board of Education states that districts must develop a policy to award performance-based credits, ensuring that the experiences for which credits are awarded align with the Kentucky Academic Standards. Examples include senior year or capstone projects and work-based learning (internships, apprenticeships, cooperative learning experiences, and other supervised learning experiences in the school and community).

Career and Technical Education

Kentucky has adopted the National Career Clusters Framework. Students enrolled in career and technical education courses may take the Kentucky Occupational Skills Standards Assessment after completing two credits as well as the ACT WorkKeys upon enrolling in a third CTE credit in an approved career pathway. State law allows for the substitution of career-technical courses for specific graduation course requirements, and some career and technical education courses may qualify for dual credit if they are approved under the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education’s dual credit policy.

Dual Enrollment and Dual Credit

Dual credit allows students to take college-level courses and earn high school and college credit concurrently. Public colleges and universities partner with a district to provide dual credit opportunities which may be provided at the student’s high school, on a college campus, or virtually. When students take courses taught at an approved postsecondary institution during the regular school day, they are said to be concurrently enrolled as defined by the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships.

Kentucky requires that all high school students have access to a minimum of three general education and three career and technical education courses throughout their secondary career. To be eligible for enrollment, students must meet the postsecondary institution’s requirements for admission into the program and placement requirements for its college-level courses.

Cost for dual credit/concurrent enrollment varies based on the district-institution agreement. Students and their parents must receive a written statement explaining tuition and fees. The Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority administers support for dual credit scholarships.

Dual enrollment is when students are enrolled both in high school and at a college or university and earn college credit at a postsecondary institution. Dually enrolled students do not earn high school credit for their postsecondary coursework.

Although most Kentucky high school students pursue dual credit/concurrent enrollment options through open enrollment in the Kentucky Community and Technical College System, students also may pursue college credit online through the Kentucky Virtual University or in the classroom through state and private universities, if they fulfill institutional admission requirements.

Advanced Placement/International Baccalaureate

Kentucky offers almost 30 college-level Advanced Placement courses as well as three International Baccalaureate programs to high school students. AP-enrolled high school students may be awarded college credit for a course based on their numerical scores on end-of-course AP exams. During the 2018-2109 school year, the Kentucky Department of Education will pay AP and IB exam fees for students enrolled in the Free or Reduced Lunch Program.

Early College High Schools

Also referred to as Middle Colleges, these are partnerships between high schools and the Kentucky Community and Technical College System that allow students to earn college credits while completing their high school diploma. Early Colleges may be set up as high schools located on college campuses or may be college-level courses offered on a high school campus. Eligibility requirements, available college credits and associated costs vary by institution.

Early High School Graduation

Students in grades 9-11 may pursue an early graduation pathway through which they may qualify to receive a diploma and be eligible for acceptance into any public university or nonprofit, independent college or university in Kentucky. To qualify, the student must do the following:

  • Document their intent to graduate early
  • Enter an early graduation pathway prior to October 1 of their intended graduation year
  • Graduate in three years or less
  • Score proficient on all required end-of-course exams
  • Meet the state’s college readiness ACT benchmarks

An Early Graduation Certificate provides some financial support for students to attend college immediately after early graduation.


Postsecondary Admission Requirements

Four-Year Institutions

First-time freshmen must show that they have completed the Pre-College Curriculum with a minimum grade-point average of 2.5 or higher and have taken college readiness assessments required by the Kentucky Department of Education. Institutions may admit students with a GPA between 2.0 and 2.49 if a learning contract is executed prior to enrollment. Out-of-state students should complete a college-preparatory curriculum comparable to Kentucky’s Pre-College Curriculum.

In addition to the Kentucky minimum high school diploma requirements, the Pre-College Curriculum requires two consecutive years of a world language or demonstrated proficiency. State policy authorizes institutions to substitute the SAT for the ACT Assessment and to set additional admission criteria.

Two-Year and/or Technical Colleges

Applicants must possess a standard high school diploma or GED credential, or be eligible to pursue a GED credential.


Postsecondary Placement Policies


The Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education revised the placement requirements for the 2019-20 academic year.

Students who meet or exceed the state’s minimum qualifying scores (see table) on one of five assessments are exempt from completing developmental education or co-requisite coursework. The council also sets cut scores for placement into three credit-bearing math courses: quantitative reasoning, college algebra and calculus.

Kentucky’s Minimum College Readiness Benchmarks

Readiness Area








480 or 25






480 or 25











State Financial Aid for Undergraduates

The Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority administers the lottery-funded Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship, a merit aid program.

The program provides financial support for state residents based on their academic performance throughout high school. The value of the award increases for each year of high school in which a student maintains a 2.5 or higher grade-point average in the Pre-College Curriculum.

Students may earn a Bonus Award based on their ACT or SAT composite scores.

Students who were eligible for free or reduced-priced meals at any time during high school may earn Supplemental Awards based on their performance on Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, and Cambridge Advanced International exams. 

First-time recipients receive a scholarship equivalent to the base, bonus, and supplement award amounts.

Students may renew their full scholarship award if they maintain a 3.0 GPA and are “on track to graduate” – determined by completing a specified number of course hours. Students can receive half of the award amount if they fall below the 3.0 GPA threshold but maintain at least a 2.5 GPA or if they fall below the course hours required to be “on track to graduate.” Students may regain the scholarship if they meet renewal criteria by the end of the spring semester.

Act 186 (2019) authorizes the use of Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship funds for qualified workforce training programs providing instruction in one of Kentucky’s five high-demand work sectors. Students enrolled in these programs are eligible to receive reimbursement for tuition and other approved educational expenses.

The College Access Program Grant provides need-based aid to residents enrolling in eligible public, nonpublic, proprietary, and technical institutions. The maximum award is $2,000.

The Kentucky Tuition Grant provides need-based aid to residents enrolling in eligible nonpublic colleges. The maximum award amount is $3,000.

Act 102 (2019) creates the Work Ready Kentucky Scholarship, which will provide financial aid to residents enrolled in certain industry-recognized certificate, diploma, or associate of applied science degree programs. The award will cover tuition and required fees.


Postsecondary Feedback to High Schools

The Kentucky Center for Education and Workforce Statistics, through the Kentucky Longitudinal Data System, provides state, district and school reports including the following:

  • Postsecondary enrollment rates by subgroup and major selection (instate)
  • Education rates by college readiness benchmark performance
  • Number of freshman year courses attempted and earned
  • Comparison of high school performance and college GPA
  • Freshman retention rates