Friday, May 23, 2014

Kentucky’s chapter in the education reform story

This week I had the opportunity to speak to education writers from across the United States at their national seminar in Nashville.  The Education Writers Association includes journalists, researchers, teachers, policymakers and others with an interest in improving the public discourse surrounding education. The organization is dedicated to improving the quality and quantity of education coverage to create a better-informed society.  Several of the journalists who regularly cover education in Kentucky were in attendance.

The organization asked me to share Kentucky’s education reform story.  By all accounts it is a success, though we still have a long way to go to achieve our goal of college/career-readiness for all.  The following are some of the thoughts I shared with them as the reasons for our accomplishments.

When they write the Kentucky chapter in the book describing education reform, they will certainly mention the Kentucky Education Reform Act of 1990. I hope they will also highlight the era of Race to the Top, Federal Stimulus Funds and No Child Left Behind Waivers. Kentucky’s leadership in education reform is well documented and is part of the culture for education in Kentucky.

The Kentucky chapter documenting the reform period from 2008-2016 should begin with the foundation that was developed through the passage of major legislation in 2009. Senate Bill 1 (SB1) passed with no dissenting votes. SB 1 required new college-ready standards, assessments, accountability systems, and support for educators in implementing. Perhaps the most unique part of the legislation was the requirement for collaboration between higher education and K-12 education on setting college-ready standards.

When the Kentucky chapter is written, a few key initiatives should be highlighted.

1. It really helps to be the first. Kentucky was first to adopt and 
        implement common core state standards, first to assess the 
        standards, and first to implement an accountability system 
        based on the standards. By being first we were able to 
        chart our own course. There was no major opposition since 
        we had 100 percent support from legislators and the 
        Governor. Also, there were no other states for people to 
        compare us to.
2. We worked to develop a broad base of support. We developed 
        a strong communications plan with key partners. Our 
        educators stayed involved and informed through every 
        phase. Parents received communication on why we needed 
        more rigorous standards and assessments and how this would 
        impact their children. Business leaders received packets of 
        materials from the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce to help 
        them lead the reform efforts in their communities.
3. From the very beginning we made a decision to involve 
        teachers in every step of implementation. We pulled more 
        than 1,300 teachers, principals, and district leaders together 
        every month for two years to help us plan for implementation 
        and monitor and adjust implementation plans. Every school 
        and every school district developed a comprehensive plan 
        for implementation and support for the new standards
4. We made a decision not to rush the teacher, principal, and 
        superintendent evaluation procedures. We heavily involved 
        educators to develop evaluation models linked to the new 
        standards and assessments. As a result, we have widespread
        support this year as every district piloted the new evaluation 

        systems and next year, all teachers, principals, and 
        superintendents will utilize the state evaluation procedures.
5. Finally, our state is committed to a continuous improvement 
        approach. We know we must continue to listen and learn from 
        students, parents, teachers, and community leaders. Just 
        one example of our continuous improvement approach is our 
        Kentucky Core Academic Standards Challenge which will launch 
        in August. We are asking every citizen in Kentucky to read the 
        standards and provide comments and suggestions on how to 
        improve the standards so we reach our goal of every student 
        reaching college- and career-readiness.

Finally, I hope the Kentucky chapter will close with the record of success we have enjoyed. Our high school graduation rate is among the top in the nation and our college- and career-readiness rate has improved from 34 percent to 54 percent since we adopted common core standards. 

1 comment:

  1. Nice piece. One quibble:

    When they write the book on Kentucky school reform from 2008-2016 the story will actually begin in 1996 or so, with The Governors, Chiefs, Achieve, and the American Diploma Project. It was that foundation that made the passage of Senate Bill 1 possible in 2009. Absent those initiatives, Senate Bill 1 would have been little more that an effort to kill the CATS test as earlier unsuccessful versions of SB 1 will attest.