Schools in Kentucky would be required to teach students soft or essentials skills, such as taking initiative and showing up on time under a house bill approved Tuesday by the education committee.
State Rep. Jonathan Shell, R-Lancaster, sponsored the bill. Hardin County Schools officials have testified several times in support of an essential-skills curriculum.
House Bill 3 would require schools to implement an “essential skills program that teaches skills and characteristics that are critical to success in the workplace to each student in grades kindergarten through 12,” according to the bill.
Essential skills include adaptability, reliability and working well with others, according to the bill. It would go into effect for the 2019-20 school year, if passed.
Rep. James Tipton, R-Taylorsville, and other lawmakers voiced support Tuesday of the bill, which passed the committee with one vote against. The bill now goes to the full House for consideration.
“We’ve referred to these as soft skills, essential skills … I’m not so sure they’re not critical skills going forward,” Tipton said.
Hardin County Schools’ work ethic certification program was discussed several times during the hearing. High school seniors in the district can earn a certification if they show proficiency in eight standards. The program began in 2013.
The eight standards for work ethic certification in HCS are attendance and tardiness; personal responsibility and accountability; academic performance; work habits and persistence; punctuality, preparedness and organization; respectful interactions and communication; cooperation and teamwork; and community service.
The Kentucky Department of Education would develop the criteria for an essential skills programs. However, the bill allows schools to use an existing program or create its own, which includes all criteria developed by the department.
The bill creates a council on essential skills to oversee the program.
Middle school students can receive a certificate if they complete three essential skills experiences from sixth through eighth grade.
At the high school level, students will receive a work ethic certificate if they meet three indicators, including high attendance, completing a dual-credit course or submitting to random drug tests. Students also could receive credit for completing 25 hours of community service or demonstrating leadership experience.
The bill also requires the department of education and the Council on Essential Skills to develop age-appropriate drug awareness and prevention standards to be used with students in kindergarten to 12th grade.
“The drug testing that is talked about in this bill is completely optional,” Shell said in the hearing. “This is not a mandatory drug testing for any school or any student in the state of Kentucky.”