Bowling Green and Warren County school superintendents are open to new high school graduation requirements that aim to make diplomas more meaningful and allow students greater flexibility in their coursework.

Under the proposed changes, students would be required to show proficiency in reading and math and obtain academic or career readiness to graduate, among other requirements, according to a news release from the Kentucky Department of Education. But along the way, students would have greater freedom to take courses that align with their individual learning plans.

“I think this is great,” Bowling Green Independent School District Superintendent Gary Fields said. “For a long time we had a pretty standard set of requirements for students to graduate that didn’t necessarily meet their needs for life beyond high school.”

Fields, drawing on his 13 years of experience as a high school principal, said “We were dictating so much what courses kids were taking that it really gave them little flexibility.”

Warren County Public Schools Superintendent Rob Clayton also supported making high school graduation requirements more meaningful and customizable.

“I’m always supportive of raising the bar for our students,” he said. “If you raise the bar, the majority of students will meet it.”

If approved by the state’s board of education in October, the new requirements would take effect with the freshman class starting high school next fall.

Those students would be required to take English I and II, along with Algebra I and Geometry. However, students could take two additional credits in English language arts and math that align with their learning plans. The proposed changes offer similar flexibility in the social studies and science requirements and allow students to take six additional credits that support their academic goals.

Students would also have to demonstrate proficiency in reading and math on a 10th-grade test. If they fail, then students can take the test twice in their junior and senior years. Students who fail that can also show their proficiency in reading and math through an alternative portfolio process, according to the news release.

Additionally, students would be required to pass a civics exam, receive instruction in financial literacy and demonstrate competence in essential skills and technology, as required by law, the release said.

In many subject areas, the requirements include both “foundational” and “personalized” components.

Under the current mathematics requirements, students must take Algebra I, geometry and Algebra II. The changes would drop Algebra II as a requirement and allow students to choose how they get two other math credits.

In the release, interim Commissioner Wayne Lewis said requiring students to take Algebra II may not be serving all students well.

“For example, right now all students must take Algebra II, yet the data show many students graduate without the ability to perform even basic math skills. Rather than taking classes that might not be meaningful for them, students would benefit more by taking coursework that aligns with their plans for careers and postsecondary education,” Lewis said.

Clayton shared a similar view.

“We don’t want to place students in Algebra II when they’re not ready,” he said.

While a high percentage of students would benefit from taking Algebra II, not all of them would, he added.

“Many students can find success in many career fields having only mastered Algebra I,” Clayton said.

Fields echoed that view, adding that he appreciates the increased flexibility while still keeping testing requirements in reading and math.

“I like that this gives kids multiple opportunities, multiple ways to show they’re proficient,” Fields said.

A comparison of the existing requirements and the changes is available at bgdailynews.com.

– Follow education reporter Aaron Mudd on Twitter @BGDN_edbeat or visit bgdailynews.com.

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Education reporter. Covers education and related issues, focusing primarily on the Bowling Green and Warren County public school districts and Western Kentucky University.

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