KENTUCKY (11/26/13) - Several weeks ago I received a packet of information from Kentucky Commissioner of Education Terry Holliday’s office about the state’s latest core content standards for Kentucky schools. Included in the packet was a letter from Holliday, some history of Kentucky’s Core Academic Standards, and a “myth vs. fact” sheet from the state Department of Education about the new standards versus the old.
Now, no doubt, there has been quite a bit of discussion (some might even say controversy) about the standards, where they got their start, if the federal government was involved in the process, and what their effect has been to date. So, I think it would be helpful to go over how the whole process of revamping Kentucky’s school content standards took shape.
The process began in 2009 with the Kentucky General Assembly’s passage of legislation (Senate Bill 1) which required the state Department of Education (KDE) to work with the state’s Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE) to implement a means of revising the content standards in core areas: reading, language arts, mathematics, science, social studies, arts and humanities, and career studies, to be exact.
Once SB 1 was law, the task fell to a steering committee to implement it. That led to Kentucky’s collaboration with other states through the National Governors Association and Council of Chief State School Officers to produce common core standards in math and English/language arts in grades K through 12. According to Holliday’s letter, Kentucky and 47 other states in 2009 signed an agreement to develop what is known as the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) initiative. It was considered the best route to take for Kentucky, which was expected to meet a strict timetable for implementation with no money allocated to create high-quality standards on its own.
Many thought, and still believe, that the Kentucky Core Academic Standards—adopted by the Kentucky Board of Education in 2010 and first tested in the 2011-12 Kentucky school year— were dictated by the federal government, and that the standards are a curriculum. Neither is true. The federal government was not involved in the development of the standards, Holliday has said emphatically. Development was the responsibility of the states and their teachers, administrators, higher education faculty, and business representatives.
Secondly, the standards are not a curriculum, since a curriculum determines “how” something will be learned, not “what” will be learned, Holliday explained. This further excludes the federal government, which Holliday wrote “is barred by law from dictating a national curriculum,” as are the state Board of Education and the KDE in the Commonwealth. In Kentucky, standards are set by the state; curriculum is set locally.
Basically, SB 1 has successfully improved the quality of public education in Kentucky by raising our expectations, Holliday explained. Here are some clear-cut results, according to Holliday:
-- College and career readiness of Kentucky students has increased from 34 to nearly 48 percent over the past four years.
-- The state’s high school freshmen graduation rate has increased from 75.1 percent to a 78.8 percent average.
--The number of college-bound students who meet CPE benchmarks on the ACT college admissions exam increased by over 6 percent between 2012 and 2013, said Holliday. (The CPE benchmarks show how likely it is that a student will be successful in “credit-bearing, entry-level college courses,” Holliday wrote in his letter.)
I’ll make a final point on SB 1. The world is big on rankings, and education rankings are an area in which Kentucky has historically fallen short. But that is really changing under SB 1. According to Education Week’s “Quality Counts” report which grades state education efforts nationwide, Kentucky ranks 10th in those efforts and outcomes for 2013; in 2011, the Commonwealth ranked a dismal 34th.
So, kudos to our students, our schools, our teachers, and our administrators for their work in changing the face of education in Kentucky. And, let’s all keep up the good work!
You might recall that I promised in a prior column to give a final word on the “2012 Kentucky Equine Survey” on which I reported a few weeks ago, so let me do that briefly. A survey mailed to over 8,000 homes in Kentucky in 2013 showed a large majority of survey respondents want to protect Kentucky’s rural land, including equine operations, from being developed. I found that interesting, and would be interested in hearing your viewpoint on that matter in coming months.
Have a very Happy Thanksgiving.
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