Friday, December 17, 2010

A Heartfelt Thanks

As my family and I get ready to enjoy our second Christmas in Kentucky, I wanted to take this opportunity to express my personal thanks to all the educators and education supporters in Kentucky.

As Denise and I travel across Kentucky to visit schools, attend meetings, present at conferences and attend special events, it is apparent to us that there are wonderful people in Kentucky who care for children very deeply.

Also, I want to say a personal “thank you” to a wonderful and dedicated Kentucky Department of Education staff in Frankfort, at the Kentucky School for the Blind, at the Kentucky School for the Deaf and numerous other field staff in co-ops and other assignments. In spite of the numerous funding challenges, you make a difference for children every day.

So … from the Holliday family to the education family all across Kentucky, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. May you all find a time of peace and joy to spend with your family.

Friday, December 10, 2010

KBE Takes Historic First Step

The Kentucky Board of Education (KBE) began an historic journey this week. The board took the first steps in the approval of the first “next-generation” accountability model in the U.S. based on common core standards that have now been adopted by 44 states.

I thought readers might be interested in the “talking points” I used as the board approved the goals and guiding principles for the accountability model that were developed in collaboration with the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO).

(Note: the goals and guiding principals document posted does not reflect the many changes made by the board at its meeting. Staff is working to incorporate those changes now, and the final document will be shared widely.)

Events Leading to Proposal for Accountability Model
· 2009’s Senate Bill 1 passed -- one of the most visionary pieces of legislation in the country.
· Federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization is past due – should have been done in 2007.
· President Barack Obama establishes goal of regaining U.S. leadership among competing nations for percentage of students with college degrees (two- and four-year) – goal is 60 percent (Speech to Congress, 2009).
· U.S. Department of Education and President Obama proposed ESEA reauthorization Blueprint – spring 2010.
· Aspen Institute convened discussion on accountability model with House/Senate staff – spring 2010.
· CCSSO Standards, Assessment and Accountability Committee recommends task force to develop next-generation accountability model for ESEA reauthorization – spring 2010.
· CCSSO task force convenes – summer 2010.
· AdvanceEd and CCSSO team convene discussion on accountability and accreditation – fall 2010.
· CCSSO task force conducts virtual meetings – fall 2010.
· CCSSO Annual Policy Forum in Louisville provides public access to proposed accountability model – November 2010.

Kentucky’s Position
· First to adopt Common Core Standards – 44 states have now adopted.
· First to issue a Request for Proposals (RFP) for state assessment based on Common Core Standards – November 2010
· First to implement Common Core Standards – curriculum framework available June 2011, and teachers set to implement in August 2011.
· First to assess Common Core Standards – May 2012.
· Proposed – first to implement accountability model based on Common Core Standards and goal of “college- and career-ready” – August 2011.
· Proposed – first state to gain waiver of adequate yearly progress (AYP) with replacement of systemic approach to meet goal of “college- and career-ready” – submit in January 2012.

Key Comments on Goals of Accountability System
· We are moving to a more rigorous goal of “college- and career-ready.”
· We are not abandoning the proficiency goal. Proficiency is a predictor of the higher goal of college- and career-ready.
· We have over-identified schools with more diverse student populations while allowing schools with lower achievement levels and less diversity to avoid identification and interventions.
· We are moving from a focus on perfection (AYP) to a focus on continuous improvement (growth).
· We are providing a more transparent reporting system that provides actionable data for students, classrooms, teachers, administrators and school districts.
· We are providing a systemic approach that holds all stakeholders accountable.

Key Comments on Guiding Principles
· Proposed accountability model is systemic and aligned closely to the KBE’s four strategic priorities of Next-Generation Learners, Next-Generation Professionals, Next-Generation Support Systems and Next-Generation Schools and Districts.
· Model has strong focus on actionable data at all levels of the system.
· Model has focus on building school and district capacity, not simply identification.
· Model compares similar demographics of students, classrooms, schools and districts on a growth model rather than a perfection model.
· Model promotes improvement of the working conditions that impact the learning results.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Moving Students to Graduation – And Beyond

The Kentucky Board of Education has adopted a strategic goal of a 90 percent graduation rate by 2015, using the cohort graduation rate definition. This week, the America’s Promise Alliance released the Building a Grad Nation report, and that can be accessed at

There was some good news for Kentucky, as we were listed as one of the states making moderate progress in improving the graduation rate. However, we have much work to do. For instance, we must increase the number of current 8th graders who are projected to graduate by more than 5,000. The report lists a number of strategies to address this goal. Among those are high-quality education as a top priority for communities; accurate data; early warning and intervention systems; high expectations for ALL students; higher standards; teacher effectiveness; parent engagement; alternative options and graduation pathways; and new community coalitions supporting graduation.

Over the past year, the Graduate Kentucky initiative led by First Lady Jane Beshear has worked on the last recommendation – new community coalitions supporting graduation. At KDE we are very excited about the energy these graduation summits have created in support of the goal of graduating 5,000 more students per year.

As we move forward into the 2011 legislative session, the Kentucky Board of Education’s top priority for its legislative agenda is to raise the dropout age from 16 to 18. The board recognizes that simply raising the dropout age is not sufficient. We also must address the other strategies listed in the report mentioned above. As commissioner, I am very supportive of addressing the strategy of alternative options and graduation pathways. We must meet the needs of students through multiple pathways such as alternative programs, early college, early graduation and numerous other innovative approaches to helping students graduate and be prepared for college and career.

Specifically with regard to alternative options for students, as commissioner, I will be working with legislators and key stakeholder groups to address the alternative programs strategy. We must expand our definition of alternative programs in Kentucky to include many of the innovations that other states have been utilizing to high degrees of success. We also must improve our data system for tracking alternative students and evaluating the effectiveness of alternative programs. Finally, we must address personnel decisions with regard to staffing of alternative programs. No teacher, principal or staff member should be assigned to alternative programs as a punishment or retribution. Also, we should not assign teachers to alternative programs in their first year of teaching. Alternative programs require strong and effective teachers and leaders with significant experience in meeting the needs of students.

Over the coming weeks, our General Assembly will be coming back for a short session. It is my hope that we can pair the raising of the dropout age from 16 to 18 with the needed changes to alternative schools legislation. In so doing, we will certainly make an impact on reaching the goal of 5,000 more students graduating every year from Kentucky high schools ready to succeed in college and career.