Stephen L. Pruitt is Kentucky's sixth commissioner of education. He was selected for the position in September 2015.
Pruitt previously served as senior vice president with Achieve, Inc., a national nonpartisian, non-profit education reform organization, where he organized the development of the Next Generation Science Standards.
A native of Georgia, he started his education career as a high school chemistry teacher in Fayetteville and Tyron, Georgia. He later served as the science and mathematics program manager and director of academic standards with the Georgia Department of Education. Subsequently, he was named associate state superintendent for assessment and accountability and ultimately chief of staff for the Georgia Department of Education.
Pruitt holds a bachelor's degree in chemistry from North Georgia College and State University, a master's degree in science education from the University of West Georgia and a Doctorate of Philosophy in chemistry education from Auburn University.
This week, the National Council for Teacher
Quality (NCTQ) released the first ever national report
on the quality of teacher preparation programs. NCTQ’s Teacher
Prep Reviewprovides data on the 1,130 institutions
that prepare 99 percent of the nation’s traditionally trained new teachers.
That data was used to determine overall ratings of the programs based on a set
of key standards.
Among the key findings of the report:
--Less than 10 percent of rated programs earn three stars or more.
Only four programs, all secondary, earn four stars: Lipscomb and Vanderbilt,
both in Tennessee; Ohio State University; and Furman University in South
Carolina. Only one institution, Ohio State, earns more than three stars for
both an elementary (3½ stars) and a secondary (4 stars) program.
--It is far too easy to get into a teacher preparation program. Just
over a quarter of programs restrict admissions to students in the top half of
their class, compared with the highest-performing countries, which limit entry
to the top third.
--Fewer than one in nine elementary programs and just over one-third
of high school programs are preparing candidates in content at the level
necessary to teach the new Common Core State Standards now being implemented in
classrooms in 45 states and the
District of Columbia.
--The “reading wars” are far from over. Three out of four elementary
teacher preparation programs still are not teaching the methods of reading
instruction that could substantially lower the number of children who never
become proficient readers, from 30 percent to less than 10 percent. Instead,
the teacher candidate is all too often told to develop his or her “own unique
approach” to teaching reading.
--Just 7 percent of programs ensure that their student teachers will
have uniformly strong experiences, such as only allowing them to be placed in
classrooms taught by teachers who are themselves effective, not just willing
Among the key findings for Kentucky:
High rated programs – Programs at Eastern
Kentucky University (undergraduate secondary), the University of Kentucky (undergraduate and graduate secondary), and University
of Louisville (undergraduate secondary) are on the Teacher Prep
Review's Honor Roll, earning at least three out of four possible stars.
Across the country, NCTQ identified 20 elementary programs (3 percent of those
rated) and 84 secondary programs (14 percent) for the Honor Roll.
in admissions-- The Review found that only
14 percent of elementary and secondary programs in Kentucky restrict admissions
to the top half of the college-going population, compared to 28 percent
nationwide. Countries where students consistently outperform the U.S. typically
set an even higher bar, with teacher prep programs recruiting candidates from
the top third of the college-going population. Some worry that increasing
admissions requirements will have a negative effect on the diversity of teacher
candidates. By increasing the rigor and therefore the prestige of teacher
preparation, the profession will attract more talent, including talented
minorities. This is not an impossible dream: 83 programs across the country
earn a Strong Design designation on this standard because they are both
selective and diverse, although no such programs were found in Kentucky. Early reading instruction -- Just 29 percent
of evaluated elementary programs in Kentucky are preparing teacher candidates
in effective, scientifically based reading instruction, the same small
percentage of programs providing such training nationally. Elementary math -- A mere 19 percent
of evaluated elementary programs nationwide provide strong preparation to teach
elementary mathematics, training that mirrors the practices of higher
performing nations such as Singapore and South Korea. A notably higher
percentage -- 36 percent -- of evaluated programs in Kentucky provide such
training, although most programs in the state come up short. Student teaching -- Of the evaluated
elementary and secondary programs in Kentucky, 32 percent entirely fail to
ensure a high quality student teaching experience, in which candidates are
assigned only to highly skilled teachers and receive frequent concrete
feedback. This is a much lower failure rate than the 71 percent found
nationally. No Kentucky programs earn a perfect four stars, compared to 7 percent
of evaluated programs across the country. Classroom management -- Only 10 percent
of the evaluated Kentucky elementary and secondary programs earn a perfect four
stars for providing feedback to teacher candidates on concrete classroom
management strategies to improve classroom behavior, compared to 23
percent of evaluated programs nationwide. Content preparation -- 13 percent of
Kentucky's elementary programs earn three or four stars for providing teacher
candidates adequate content preparation, 11 percent of elementary programs do so nationwide.
Digging deeper, more elementary programs (9 percent) earn a perfect four stars
than their national counterparts (3 percent), and only 17 percent entirely fail
this standard, compared to 44 percent nationally. At the high school level, only
27 percent of Kentucky secondary programs earn four stars for content
preparation, compared to 35 percent nationwide. But unlike 20 percent of
programs across the country, no Kentucky secondary programs entirely fail the
high school content standard. Outcome
None of Kentucky's evaluated programs earn four stars for collecting data on
their graduates, compared to 26 percent of evaluated programs in the
national sample, although most programs do earn partial credit. In the absence
of state efforts to connect student achievement data to teacher preparation
programs, administer surveys of graduates and employers or require
administration of teacher performance assessments (TPAs), programs that fare
poorly on this standard have not taken the initiative to collect any such data
on their own. Having
a highly effective teacher for every student in Kentucky is a goal of the
Kentucky Board of Education. It is extremely important that our teacher
preparation programs, Education Professional Standards Board, school districts,
Council on Postsecondary Education, and the Kentucky Department of Education
work closely to build on our strengths in Kentucky teacher preparation and
improve in areas highlighted in this report. Over
the summer, I will highlight specific issues from this report, the Commission
on Accreditation of Educator Preparation standards report, the Council of Chief
State School Officers focus on teacher preparation and the results from our
2013 TELL Kentucky survey. All of these are interrelated and provide excellent
data as we continue our work toward college- and career-readiness for all
students in Kentucky.
While opponents of the Common Core
State Standards in English/language arts and mathematics continue spreading
misinformation, the business community in Kentucky is rallying in support of
the Kentucky Board of Education’s decision to adopt the standards in 2010.
Kentucky Chamber of Commerce President Dave Adkisson recently wrote a column
posted on the U.S. Chamber’s Free Enterprise.com.I thought it was important to share the
business and economicperspective on the
standards with you, so this week he is my guest blogger. I have added links so
you can see firsthand some of the things he references.
Leading the way on Common Core Standards by Dave Adkisson
As we look to the future and think about the
economic recovery, we can see the widening of a skills gap where the education
and skill levels of Kentuckians don’t meet the requirements and supply of jobs.
The challenge of filling this gap will become even more acute as thousands of
baby boomers retire, leaving well-paying positions unfilled.
Kentucky, in early 2010, was the first state in the
nation to adopt these rigorous new learning guidelines developed by a
consortium of states under the auspices of the Council for Chief State School
Officers and the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices. Our
state’s position as the first adopter was spurred by bipartisan legislation
from our General Assembly a year earlier that mandated new standards and
assessments for Kentucky’s education system.
As the Kentucky Chamber became familiar with the standards –- particularly their alignment
with college and career expectations and their reflection of international
benchmarks – we realized how critical they would be to the development of a
world-class workforce. Reflecting our strong support, the Kentucky Chamber
Foundation, in partnership with the state Department of Education, has
spearheaded an initiative to help employers understand the standards and their
To show a united front between education and
business, and to reinforce the point about the important relationship between
education and workforce quality, the state education commissioner and I
conducted a series of nearly 20 joint appearances across the state.
Key to our messaging was the fact that Kentucky’s
students are falling short of the mark in being adequately prepared for college
or career. As we began our tour, data
showed that only 38 percent of Kentucky students were college/career ready
based on ACT scores, college placement tests and academic or technical
benchmarks. (We have seen some recent improvement; the 2011-12 data showed a
level of 47 percent – an uptick that followed the state’s emphasis on college
and career preparation.)
In a video
distributed statewide, we also emphasized the points of view of individual
Kentucky employers who are grappling with the challenges of an under-skilled
workforce. One of these was Rich Gimmel, president of Atlas Machine and Supply
Inc., an industrial machinery company in Louisville.
“I can buy gas from a college graduate making $8 an
hour, but I can’t find qualified machinists who could make an average salary of
$70,000 a year,” he said. “Right now, if I had a truckload of journeymen
machinists show up at our front door, we’d hire them on the spot.”
We reinforced the video with an employers’ communications
tool kit that provided messaging templates for emails, letters, staff
meetings and other ways to share information about the standards at the
business and community level. Thousands of these kits were distributed to
Chamber members across Kentucky to broaden the impact as much as possible.
We’ve been pleased with the results to date. When
Kentucky’s first test scores were, as predicted, lower than in previous years,
parents, employers, community leaders and advocates were ready for the news and
showed little inclination to abandon the standards.
We do know, however, that now is not the time to
rest. We are aware of misinformation being distributed about the standards
across the country and want to be sure Kentucky stands firm in using this
rigorous course of study to prepare our students for the challenges of the
future. They deserve nothing less than the best education we can provide for
them, and their success will help ensure economic and civic progress for all of
released its annual “Diplomas
Count” study this week. The Diplomas Count project is an effort by the
Editorial Projects in Education that publishes Education Week and is an ongoing study of high school graduation issues. The
report includes national and state level data and can be accessed through the
links above. There was some good news for Kentucky in the report and also some
continuing concerns that our state must address.
The good news is that the Kentucky graduation rate for the
Class of 2010 (the most recent data available for this report) was 77.2 percent
-- better than the national average of 74.7 percent. Of particular importance was the fact that Kentucky ranked 3rd in the nation for most improvement in the graduation rate
since 2000. Kentucky improved 13.5 percentage points compared to a national improvement of
Kentucky legislators, who have often been concerned that we
were over estimating the graduation rate since we were unable to move to the
cohort graduation rate until the Class of 2013, should find solace in the “Diplomas
Count” report. According to the numbers
Kentucky’s state-reported graduation rate is the same as the graduation rate calculated
for this report.
While there is much to be proud of in Kentucky’s efforts
toward improving high school graduation rates, there remain several areas that we
need to work on to help more students graduate from high school. According to “Diplomas
Count,” Kentucky had 53,524 students enter 9th grade in 2009-10. However, only
42,067 students were estimated to graduate four years later (2012-13). That
means 11,457 students did not graduate within four years. This translates to 64
students dropping out of Kentucky high schools every day.
these 11,457 students look like and how does this impact the economy in
Kentucky? More than 73 percent of the dropouts are white, more than 60 percent
are male, and more than 72 percent of these dropouts are unemployed.
What if we
were able to recover half of these students through dropout prevention work and
recovery efforts with our community colleges?
research done by the Alliance for Excellence in Education, if we decreased
the number of dropouts by half, the Kentucky economy would see $68 million in
increased savings, $54 million in increased spending, $121 million in increased
home sales, $7.1 million in increased auto sales, 450 new jobs, $80 million
increase in gross state product, and a $5.9 million increase in state tax
revenue PER YEAR!
As we close
in on the date for SB 97
to take effect, we are hearing from districts that intend to adopt a policy
that raises the dropout age from 16 to 18. The Kentucky Department of Education
(KDE) is providing planning grants
of $10,000 per district to help develop a plan to implement their policy. While
we guaranteed at least 57 districts would receive funding, we are working to
increase that number with funds from other sources. My commitment to districts
is that KDE will work to ensure we get funding for at least 55 percent of districts
over the next two years so we can move forward with a statewide effort to
increase the percentage of students who graduate from high school.
It is also
critically important that districts have rigorous programs in place to ensure
high school graduates are ready for
college and career.
are very clear. While a high school diploma is a good start, it isn’t enough. The
high school dropout unemployment rate is as high as 28 percent or higher for
some demographics; for high school graduates it’s in excess of 10 percent.
Yet, the unemployment rate for 2 or 4 year college graduates is less than 4 percent.
should take a few moments and celebrate the successes in the “Diplomas Count”
report and then begin working on specific plans and strategies to implement SB
97 and our work around college/career-readiness.