Friday, July 16, 2010

An Interesting, Interconnected Week

This week was a very interesting week. Governor Beshear dropped in to visit with the Transforming Education in Kentucky (TEK) task force. His message was very clear and visionary. He recharged the task force with developing recommendations that will refocus our efforts in Kentucky to help prepare more children for the challenges they will face.

This charge is clear. ALL students must be prepared for college and career through a more challenging and rigorous education. After his message, the task force heard from our career and technical education (CTE) staff about the excellent work going on in this program. The message was clear that the current CTE program is not your father’s shop class anymore. The program integrates academics and technical skills to prepare students for jobs of the 21st century.

Gene Bottoms of the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) delivered an excellent presentation on how to ensure more students graduate from high school with college- and career-ready skills. His presentation also included several excellent policy recommendations that the task force will certainly be reviewing for possible inclusion in the final report.

Also, this week, First Lady Jane Beshear was honored by the SREB for her leadership with the Graduate Kentucky Project. And, I had the honor to present at the Chamber of Commerce Economic Summit. All of these events are very much related.

I have begun to focus on the “Three Es.” Education, employment and the economy are tightly linked, and all of the events this week showed that linkage very clearly. A report I received in an e-mail from the Alliance for Excellent Education pulled it all together. Excerpts from the report are below, and I encourage readers to review the information for the nation and for our largest urban system – Louisville/Jefferson County.

Excerpts from the article:

In the nation's forty-five largest metropolitan areas, students of color made up a sizable portion of the estimated 600,000 students who dropped out from the Class of 2008: 113,600 African American, 200,000 Latino, 3,750 American Indian, and 30,800 Asian American1 students are estimated to have dropped out from this class.

Cutting the number of these dropouts in half would likely produce vast economic benefits by boosting the spending power of these communities of color and spurring job and economic growth in these regions. Below, see the likely contributions that these “new graduates” would make to their regional economies.
· All told, the students of color within this one class of new graduates could produce enormous benefits for their local economies:
· Together, their additional spending would likely generate 17,450 new jobs and boost the gross regional products of these areas by as much as $3.1 billion by the time they reach the midpoint of their careers.
· As a result of their increased wages and higher levels of spending, state and local tax revenues within these regions would likely grow by as much as $249.7 million during an average year.
· The regions would likely see increased human capital, with 48 percent of these new graduates likely continuing on to pursue some type of postsecondary education after earning a high school diploma.

To view the full report, visit


  1. The Alliance for Excellent Education estimates of the financial impacts of dropping out are something every Kentuckian should see. Those impacts reach far beyond the individual student.

    Along those lines, one KDE based program could offer significant potential to help with our dropout program, but I don't think it's getting enough attention.

    That program is the Kentucky Virtual High School program, augmented by a very interesting enrollment option from the Barren County Public School system.

    Believe it or not, it is possible, right now, for a student anywhere in Kentucky to enroll in a totally virtual high school environment that can be accessed anytime, 24/7.

    Such a program could be very attractive to some of our dropouts, but it appears that the word isn't getting out about the program's availability.

    Mr. Commissioner, we've talked about this opportunity and the problems of marketing it. Can you provide any information on plans you have for KVHS?

  2. The reorganization of KDE takes into account diverse ways of delivering learning to students. We've had many discussions on the role of KVHS and other virtual learning systems, and under our new organizational model, KVHS will be a key component in our work with next-generation learners. I've also had discussions with school district leaders about pilot programs to provide virtual learning when schools are closed for weather or illness.