This week, Kentucky took bold steps toward improving education outcomes for the future of our Commonwealth – our children.
Gov. Steve Beshear enabled Kentucky’s participation in the development of Common Core State Standards with his signature last year on an agreement that states develop common core standards. This collaborative effort of 51 states and territories, many national organizations, the National Governors Association, the Council of Chief State School Officers, Achieve, ACT, ETS and others signaled a major step in placing America back in the front of educational attainment in the world.
By any measure you care to review, our education system has continued to achieve; however, we have been outpaced by most of the industrialized world. We no longer lead the world in high school graduates or postsecondary graduates, and on most international assessments ,our student achievement scores place our education system well below the international average. There are many causes of this change in our relative position; however, the most obvious is that the rest of the world finally caught on to America’s advantage – education.
Our state leadership recognized that Kentucky needed to not only compare districts and schools in Kentucky to each other, but also recognized the need for international and national comparisons. If Singapore outperforms U.S. students in mathematics, then we need to look at what they are doing in Singapore. When we looked, we found what teachers have been telling us for years. We were expecting too much to be taught. This meant that teachers covered material rather than helping every child master the material. Our focus on multiple-choice testing has led us to actually “dumb down” the curriculum and assess mostly recall and short-term memory items. Our practices across education in Kentucky and throughout the U.S. focused more on “gaming” the testing and accountability system rather than really focusing on student mastery of high-level material.
This week, the Kentucky Board of Education, Council on Postsecondary Education and Education Professional Standards Board came together to signal the change in direction as required by Senate Bill 1 and the Common Core State Standards movement. While this is a bold move, it will not have any impact on classrooms unless we continue to engage teachers and college faculty in the next steps.
During the review of the Common Core Standards, hundreds of college and P-12 faculty were involved in the review. Comments from Kentucky were widely utilized by the national writing teams. The next steps now must include every mathematics and language arts teacher in Kentucky. We have a deployment plan that will engage selected faculty this summer and then engage all math and language arts teachers during the 2010-11 school year.
We are scheduling a statewide summit in early April to roll out the plan, and we will then keep the public and legislative leaders informed of our progress through a Web-based project management plan. The plan ensures the level of engagement, professional development and public awareness that will be necessary to make certain every parent and every businessperson in Kentucky knows why we are implementing the Common Core Standards. The main reason – our children. A young person who graduates from a Kentucky high school should know that he/she is prepared for college and/or career based on his/her choice. We must eliminate the need for high school graduates to pay for remediation courses for which they do not receive college credit.
The responsibility will be a shared responsibility. Teachers must address the needs of ALL students, students must be held accountable for individual progress, and parents must be involved in supporting schools and their children. The future is in all of our hands, and my few months in Kentucky have convinced me that Kentucky teachers, students and parents can rise to challenge.
You can see more information about the historic meeting on Feb. 10 here.