The Bluegrass State became the first in the nation to bring every public high school on board with a common electronic transcript and college admissions process.
The Kentucky Department of Education announced on Wednesday, May 14, that its project with the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education and the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority had saturated high schools in 173 districts. Every public and private college in the state is part of this electronic transcript exchange as well. While other states have electronic transcript systems, not every high school uses them, and they don't all have common student information systems and transcript forms like Kentucky does, according to the Education Department.
With a common transcript from Parchment and the common student information system Infinite Campus, Kentucky schools are literally on the same page. Both high schools and colleges are able to handle transcripts more efficiently in the admissions process, which allows them to give students an answer faster.
"It is long overdue, but Kentucky feels very fortunate to have been the first state that's been able to do it statewide for all of our public schools," said DeDe Conner, director of the Division of Enterprise Data at the Kentucky Department of Education.
This transition is a big switch for Kentucky schools, which were previously on a slow, labor-intensive paper process. Guidance counselors spent much of their time handling paper transcript requests, And then it was up to the student to make sure the transcripts got to their colleges.
At the college level, staff would have to manually input transcript data for each student into their systems. Now the transcript processing will be much easier for colleges and universities, said Sue Cain, senior policy advisor for the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education.
"On our college campuses, this allow[s] for a programmatic input of student information into their admissions database systems, and that has never happened before," Cain said.
Here's how it works. Students can request a transcript at any time online. Schools receive the request and send the transcript electronically to a college. The college then puts the transcript into its system for evaluation. Already, high schools have sent more than 35,000 preliminary transcripts to colleges this year through this new process.
Instead of having a paper transcript stuck on an administrator's desk or locked away in a file, students can submit their request and know it will be handled in a timely manner so they can meet college application deadlines.
"Those transcripts can be kind of the last part that students are waiting for, so this will speed up the process quite a bit," said Erin Klarer, vice president of government relations for the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority.
But this change didn't happen overnight. Kentucky spent the 2012-13 school year in a pilot of the process with 13 schools and three universities. From last July to March of this year, the Education Department trained large school districts in person and opened up online training for the rest of the districts. In June, schools will send out final transcripts through the new system.
It took a lot of work and communication to get everyone onto this common system, particularly with school staff who already had full schedules, Conner said. But through consistent guidance and gentle reminders, every public high school district has chosen to participate in an electronic way of doing things.
Next up for the project is getting private schools into the system. Some have already signed up, but the big hurdle for many of them is that they want their own branding on the transcript rather than that of Kentucky, Conner said.
In late June, the project team will be hosting a listening forum where schools and colleges will share how the new process has helped them do their job better. Everyone will also have a chance to reflect on how the process went this past year and talk about changes they would like to see. The project leaders will take their feedback under consideration and tweak things as needed for next year.