Friday, October 31, 2014

The nature of education

Kentucky has been featured in numerous state and national media sources recently for the improved performance in college- and career-readiness rates and graduation rates. As commissioner, I have been very proud of the efforts of teachers, administrators, students, and education partners in implementing Senate Bill 1 (2009) which required more rigorous standards, assessments, accountability model and professional development for teachers.

While there has been a lot of good news recently, as I look closely at the performance of our students and schools, there are areas that should be addressed. One of the major areas is the continued achievement gap between student groups. 

I have been very encouraged by recent developments in Fayette County. The local equity council has worked with the school administration and the school board to adopt and implement 10 major recommendations for closing achievement gaps. 

I have also been encouraged by the commitment in Jefferson County schools to address the hiring of minority teachers. I have made a commitment to the Kentucky Board of Education to redouble our state efforts on closing achievement gaps. 

At the December meeting of the Kentucky Board of Education, we have invited a national group, Education Trust, to present findings from their recent report that questions the ability of current state accountability models to address the achievement gap. Over the coming months, the state board will look at ways to improve the accountability model to address concerns about the achievement gap. Also, the department will be working closely with advisory groups to develop specific state strategies that could help schools and districts develop local plans to address achievement gaps.

The other concern I have is mathematics performance. Kentucky students are above national averages in reading and science as measured by the National Assessment of Education Progress; however, our mathematics performance is lagging the nation. In a recent report from the National Governor’s Association titled Unlocking Young Children’s Potential: Governors’ Role in Strengthening Early Mathematics Learning, I noted three recommendations that could address our mathematics performance.

1) There is a need for states to build support for early mathematics education within pre-kindergarten expansion, early literacy, STEM education and future workforce preparation.
2) States should align high-quality standards throughout the education pipeline and mathematics instruction should reflect current research. The report was clear that too often our early mathematics education provides less time and less rigor than needed to help build a mathematics literacy in children.
3) States need to look at changes to improve educator preparation and ways to support building early childhood and elementary teachers’ capacity in mathematics instruction.

Lots of great accomplishments and lots of work left to do. That is the nature of education!


  1. I appreciate these target areas as they are indeed important for student achievement. Another concern I have is the amount of exclusion in NAEP Testing. Ie, in Kentucky last year there were 17% of disabled 8th grade students excluded from taking the Math test according to (However, KDE New Release #13-111 Nov, 2013 stated it was at the national average of 2%, so please confirm the correct exclusion rate.)

    As a supporter of Math (STEAM), I also am concerned about some of the gaps that exist in gender as well as race, income and disabilities, at certain grade levels. Visit for some of my earlier blogs such as "Doing the Math" for tips to help inspire enthusiasm and skills in Math early.

  2. Is there a list on the KDE website listing the 'student groups' into which students are categorized?

    As you are meeting and discussing, ask schools if students with disabilities are utilizing IEP specified accommodations during testing. Those accommodations allow students with disabilities to show what they know, rather than showing their disability.