Friday, December 11, 2009

A New Direction for the Kentucky Board of Education

The Kentucky Board of Education meeting this week signaled a new direction for the board’s meetings. The agenda items at the meeting were a comprehensive set of strategies that will eventually lead to regulatory and possibly statutory changes to implement Senate Bill 1.

The board acted on major recommendations from a recent Office of Education Accountability study of mathematics programs in schools in the Commonwealth. A key requirement will be common course codes for core subjects. This is related to Senate Bill 1, since the Common Core Standards (an initiative of the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association) will drive the need to have common course codes at the high school level. Algebra I in Paducah must be the same as Algebra I in Pikeville. While we would certainly want local teachers to set instructional materials, pacing and length of course and define instruction, we must assure parents and students that our mathematics courses and standards will adequately prepare all high school graduates to be successful in college and career.

Another key strategy is changing the definition for measuring high school graduation rates. The board approved regulatory changes that will allow use of a more standard graduation rate, which allows districts to disaggregate rates by ethnicity and gender. Kentucky will not be able to implement the national graduation rate, called a cohort graduation rate, which follows individual students from the 9th grade to graduation, until 2013-14; however, until that time, we must focus on preparing ALL children to graduate with the skills needed for college and career.

These are very exciting times in Kentucky. With the Race to the Top application and Senate Bill 1 deployment, the Kentucky Board of Education is very focused on a comprehensive system of improvement. Also, with Governor Steve Beshear’s Transforming Education in Kentucky Task Force set to begin work in January, 2010 should be a very interesting year for education. What excites me more than anything are the great teachers, principals and school staff that I see during visits to schools each week. In spite of budget cuts and challenging local situations, these folks are dedicated to helping every child be successful.

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