Friday, May 21, 2010

Finding ways to help more students succeed

Someone asked me this week if I ever get discouraged. The answer is, that after 38 years in the education profession, I often get discouraged. However, it never lasts more than a few seconds. I quickly come back to the mission and that is to help more children be successful.

I heard a speaker once ask the audience, “What is your purpose in life?” He then followed up with a method to determine your purpose in life. The speaker asked the audience to consider, “What keeps you awake at night and what wakes you up in the morning?” What keeps me up at night and wakes me in the morning is the desire to help more children reach success. Success in my book is defined as every child graduating from Kentucky schools ready for college and career.

This week, we are finishing up our second-round application for Race to the Top. Charter school legislation would certainly have helped us. However, that door has been closed, so it is time to move on to other doors. We are excited about numerous partnerships with national organizations that will help us move forward with innovations which will help more students be successful.

One exciting innovation is the P20 lab that the University of Kentucky has created. President Lee Todd and Dean Mary John O’Hair have invested significant resources to develop this lab. Also, Kentucky was selected as one of five states to partner with the Council of Chief State School Officers and the Stupski Foundation to create “Next Generation Schools.” We have a team of UK staff and KDE staff meeting this week to discuss the next steps in creating next generation schools.

Another exciting opportunity is the National Council on Education and the Economy. Kentucky is one of eight states collaborating to develop ways that students can “move on when ready” in high school. This partnership will create exciting opportunities to ensure all graduates from Kentucky schools are ready for college and career.

Finally, just when you seem most discouraged you get a call from a superintendent who has visited an early college. Early college blends high school and college in a rigorous yet supportive program, compressing the time it takes to complete a high school diploma and the first two years of college. The superintendent reports seeing students reach success in early college who normally would have not been successful. The excitement of the leaders in our school districts in Kentucky is tremendous.

While Race to the Top is a major funding source for the future of Kentucky school innovation, whether we receive the funding or not is not the most important agenda item. The most important agenda item is finding innovative ways to help more children succeed!

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