Friday, August 5, 2011

Commonwealth Diploma: A History and the Future

In 1985, the Kentucky State Board for Elementary and Secondary Education (later known as the Kentucky Board of Education, or KBE), implemented a regulation that described the Commonwealth Diploma program. The goal of the program was to encourage students to participate in higher-level courses and receive state-level recognition for their efforts. The program also provided reimbursement to students who took Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) exams while working toward the diploma.

The KBE took final action this week on the procedural steps to remove the regulatory language that established the Commonwealth Diploma. There are some key points that I wanted to provide readers.
· The Commonwealth Diploma was never a legislative action. The Kentucky Board of Education enacted regulatory language to set the conditions for the diploma.
· One component of the diploma is reimbursement for AP courses for which students meet requirements. The funding for this reimbursement was never appropriated and has been paid for from Gifted and Talented funds.
· The Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) has not been able to meet all funding requests in recent years, so the reimbursement has not been equal among schools and districts.
· Universities do not recognize the Commonwealth Diploma as an advantage for admissions. Admission counselors look more closely at GPAs and scores on Advanced Placement assessments.
· School districts now have the capacity to implement any recognition they wish for diplomas.
· Seniors for the 2011-12 school year are grandfathered in. Any student in the Commonwealth Diploma pipeline who graduates in 2011-12 will receive the recognition.
· Prior to registration for courses for the 2012-13 school year, a committee will bring recommendations back to KBE regarding the recommended parameters for special diploma recognition. These special recognitions could include but not be limited to STEM, career/technical, arts, world language and Advanced Placement.

KDE has provided school district superintendents with specific information about the Commonwealth Diploma and have informed the Interim Joint Committee on Education of KBE actions. The action by the KBE was not to reduce rigor or expectations, but to develop expectations that meet 21st-century skills for multiple diploma recognitions and to ensure equity and excellence across all schools and districts in the Commonwealth.

Should readers seek additional information, please contact Robin Chandler at (502) 564-9850 or

UPDATE: Due to input from legislators, school district personnel and parents, Kentucky Department of Education staff recommended to the Kentucky Board of Education that the Commonwealth Diploma program be continued an additional year, with no funding, before its discontinuation. This would allow those already in the pipeline to earn the diploma to complete the program, extend the life of the program through the 2012-13 school year and give more time for other options to be developed to take the place of the Commonwealth Diploma. The board unanimously approved this proposal.

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