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Kansas State Board of Education approves new graduation requirements

Posted: Nov 17, 2022
Author: Ann Bush

Future requirements maintain minimum graduation requirement of 21 units, give districts option to use mastery and competency to award credits

TOPEKA — After more than a year of discussing graduation requirements for Kansas students, the Kansas State Board of Education last week voted to approve the Graduation Requirements Task Force recommendations.

The new graduation requirements will include:

  • Maintaining the minimum graduation requirement of 21 units of credit.
  • Giving districts the option to use mastery and competency to award credits.
  • All students completing two or more postsecondary assets from an established list that includes career/real-world and academic assets – aligned with their Individual Plan of Study (IPS).
  •  All students completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). However, schools, students and families will be able to opt out.

The vote also includes the formation of a new committee to gather input and provide recommendations to the State Board of Education on potential changes in the future. This committee is to include teachers, administrators and families from across Kansas.

The Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE) will begin defining what constitutes the awarding of credit based on mastery and competency; establish criteria for alternative avenues to credit attainment; and clarify the objective of an IPS.

With postsecondary assets, the career and real-world category examples include youth apprenticeships; community service hours; industry-recognized certifications; and workplace learning directly tied to a student’s IPS. Academic examples include an ACT composite score of 21 or higher; a WorkKeys level of silver or higher; nine or more college hours; senior projects or senior exit interviews; an SAT score of 1480 or higher; and obtaining a level three or four on the Kansas State Assessment in math, ELA and science.

While the State Board decided to keep the minimum graduation requirements at 21 units of credit, there were some changes to how those credits are earned.

Under the present system, students must take four units of English language arts (ELA) to graduate. Under the new requirements, students will need a total of four communication units – 3.5 units of ELA (reading, writing, literature, technical) and one-half credit of communications (speech, debate, forensics, journalism, public speaking).

Students still will be required to earn three units of social studies (world, US history, US government) and one unit of fine arts (music, dance, art theater, etc.).

Under the present system, students need three units of science and three units of math to graduate. The new requirements are seven science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) units, which include three units of math (algebraic and geometric concepts); three units of science (physical, biological, earth/space); and one STEM elective (computer science, advanced math or science, robotics, advanced career and technical education (CTE), agriculture, etc.).

Currently, students need one unit of physical education and six units of electives. With the new requirements, students will need one-half unit of physical education; one-half unit of health; one-half unit of financial literacy; and four and one-half units of electives related to the student’s IPS (with an emphasis on CTE/Pathway courses).

The Graduation Requirements Task Force was established in June 2021 to complete a comprehensive evaluation of Kansas high school graduation requirements to better meet the needs of students in the 21st century.

The task force was asked to identify courses to add or delete from the requirements (if any); review ways to demonstrate mastery of skills and competencies; study the need for earning value-added assets in addition to a high school diploma; and ensure that all students are included and all opportunities for success are studied.

The task force included principals, superintendents, State Board of Education members, local board of education members, business leaders, public and private school educators, curriculum directors and members of the Special Education Advisory Council (SEAC). The group met virtually and in person more than 15 times before making recommendations to the State Board.

The graduation requirement changes approved last week are the first in the state in about 20 years.

KSDE will begin working on regulations and guidance documents that can help educators and administrators transition to the new requirements. The new graduation requirements will go into effect with the ninth grade class the year after the regulations receive final approval. It is anticipated that the earliest the new graduation requirements will go into effect will be with the class of 2028.

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