Kentucky Considers ‘Enhanced’ Skills Diploma

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Kentucky is considering the implementation of an enhanced high school diploma, called Kentucky Rising, which could take effect as soon as the 2016-2017 school year.

The new diploma would allow graduates to receive scholarships as well as early college admissions through criteria showing their readiness to enter the global work force.

“It’s huge,” Education Commissioner Terry Holliday said. “I think it’s going to be a critical initiative for economic development in our state.”

Holliday went on to say that the diploma would help to build a stronger workforce in the state, one that would further meet requirements of foreign industries who have investments in the state, as well as with industries doing business with other countries, reported Valarie Honeycutt Spears for The Lexington Herald-Leader.  He said that employers in the state who are working with foreign companies currently “can’t find the skilled work force that they need.”

A joint meeting is set for January to generate support for the initiative.  The chairmen and vice-chairmen of the Council on Postsecondary Education, the Education Professional Standards Board and the Kentucky Board of Education and their agency heads will all be in attendance.

Businesses will be required to help state education officials create criteria for the diploma.

In an annual evaluation, Kentucky Board of Education members said Holliday had an “outstanding performance” for the 2013-2014 school year, with accomplishments including significantly raising graduation rates as well as college and career readiness, staying in clear communication with educators and staff members, implementation of the teacher evaluation system as well as his understanding of the best practices used across the country.

The board did suggest that he continue to work to further close the achievement gaps that are continuing to hurt the minority, poor and disabled students in the state, which members felt his current efforts “fell short of the goals.”

Holliday received a 1% raise as part of his evaluation, his first raise since taking the position in 2009.  However, rather than keeping that money for himself, Holliday has announced that he will be donating his raise to the Kentucky Employees Charitable Campaign.

“I came here because of SB 1, not because of the salary,” Holliday said, referring to legislation that set the stage for an overhaul of the state’s assessment and accountability systems.

He said that he was aware of the salary when he originally accepted the position, and only took the raise because “legally, I’ve got to accept it.”  The legislature mandated that all state school employees receive a 1% raise this year.

In the past, he has refused any raise offers. Holliday, who is in his second four-year term as education commissioner, has a salary of $225,000.