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Postsecondary chief talks college/career readiness and teacher recruitment, training and development

Bob King

Robert King

Robert L. King became the third president of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education in January 2009.

Since coming to the post, he has led statewide efforts to work collaboratively with his counterparts in K-12 education, has focused campus attention on student success, and is encouraging significant reform in teacher and principal training. He was recently elected to the Executive Committee of the national organization that serves State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO), and serves as its Treasurer.

King is the former Chancellor of the State University of New York, one of the largest comprehensive systems of universities, colleges, and community colleges in the world. More recently, he served as president and CEO of the Arizona Community Foundation, a statewide charitable foundation with a strong focus on education, economic development, and scientific research. He also is very active in community service and has volunteered and served on numerous boards and organizations.

King received a bachelor of arts degree in 1968 from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, and a Juris Doctor in 1971 from the Vanderbilt University School of Law. He is married to Karen, his wife of 36 years, and they have four grown children and one grandchild.

King recently answered some questions posed to him by Kentucky Teacher staff:

Can you explain what the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE) oversees and its responsibilities?

CPE is the statewide coordinating agency for postsecondary and adult education. It enacts key legislation aimed at raising educational attainment to meet current and workforce needs, and improve the standard of living and quality of life of Kentuckians.  Guiding legislation includes the Kentucky Postsecondary Education Improvement Act of 1997, Kentucky Adult Education Act (2000), Kentucky Innovation Act (2000), College and Workforce Readiness (2009) and transfer legislation (2010).

The Council’s most visible role is setting tuition each spring, a process that gets a lot of press attention as it directly impacts students and their families. I’m very pleased that our Council has moderated tuition increases over the past few years, and we will do so again this year.

Other major responsibilities include implementing a strategic agenda for postsecondary and adult education; submitting a biennial budget request on behalf of public postsecondary and adult education; approving admission criteria and academic programs; licensing non-public postsecondary institutions; administering the Kentucky Adult Education system and GED testing centers; and collecting, analyzing and reporting comprehensive performance data. We also administer programs that support legislative mandates and student success such as the Kentucky Virtual Campus, Kentucky Virtual Library, the Learning Depot, Kentucky Regional Optical Network, and GEAR UP Kentucky.

Who serves on the Council on Postsecondary Education and how are they chosen?

The Governor appoints members to the council. Our members include 13 citizens, one faculty member, and one student member; the commissioner of education is an ex-officio member. A listing of CPE members is available here.

How does Kentucky’s method of managing postsecondary education compare to other states?

Kentucky’s method of managing its higher education sector is similar, though not identical, to about half the states in the nation. The CPE is what is known as a coordinating board. In short, each campus and the Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS) has its own governing board (trustees or regents), the members of which are responsible for hiring, supervising and, on occasion, discharging campus presidents. Those boards serve as fiduciaries for the state and its citizens to assure the campuses are operated effectively and in accord with state law. The CPE serves in a different capacity. It helps coordinate, among all the campuses, the development of operating and programmatic policies, budget proposals that become part of the biennial budget debate in the legislature, and we are charged with “determining tuition.” In some other states, they have a single governing board that combines the responsibilities of the campus based boards of trustees or regents with those of the state coordinating board.

One of your many duties at the council involves you serving as an ex-officio member of the Kentucky Board of Education. The council is often referred to as a primary partner of the Kentucky Department of Education. Can you explain what is meant by that and how the two agencies work together?

The partnership that exists between CPE and KDE is strong and vibrant due to the interrelationship the two agencies share regarding the complete education of Kentuckians. Our universities receive nearly 90 percent of our students from Kentucky public schools. And our public schools hire nearly all of their teachers from Kentucky colleges and universities. Staff at both agencies jointly participate in developing policies and programs affecting both sectors (higher education and K-12), have worked closely together on implementation of the provisions of Senate Bill 1 (Common Core State Standards), on preparation of Kentucky’s Race to the Top grant proposal, and a growing list of projects — all designed to more highly educate more Kentuckians.

Have you seen the council’s partnership with KDE change since you have been head of the agency? Can you explain or give examples of how?

The council’s relationship with KDE has strengthened over the past several years. Education Commissioner Terry Holliday regularly reports to the CPE on KDE activities, and I try to regularly attend KBE meetings. In addition, Commissioner Holliday has met directly with our college presidents, provosts and deans, which has created relationships and interactions that did not previously exist. The response has been overwhelmingly positive for both sectors. One specific example grew out of the commissioner’s request for the creation of a common placement examination that could be used to assess student readiness after students completed transitional or remedial courses while in high school. In response to his call, groups of faculty came together from all of our campuses to create such an exam (now called KYOTE), available across the state, online and at no cost to students, to assess mathematics, reading and writing skills. And, each of our campuses have agreed to accept the exam results as a valid indicator of readiness, comparable to scores on the ACT and COMPASS exams. 

The state’s goal is for all students to be college- and career-ready by the time they graduate high school. How is the council assisting in this effort?

The council has incorporated college readiness into the current strategic agenda. It is one of four focus areas. In implementing the strategies contained therein, our campuses are: developing and supporting the delivery of transitional courses in high schools across the state; have developed and use the assessment tool (KYOTE); are creating new approaches to recruiting and training teachers; are expanding clinical training opportunities for pre-service teachers (three just awarded grants from CPE will accelerate the development of these sites in partnership with school districts across the state); and our campuses have been tasked with developing high quality, relevant, and effective professional development programs for in-service teachers and building principals.

Teacher effectiveness is a buzzword in education these days. How has CPE been involved in improving teacher preparation and effectiveness in Kentucky?

CPE has been at the center of efforts to stimulate efforts at our campuses to re-design teacher preparation programs. These efforts are being undertaken collaboratively with KDE and the Education Professional Standards Board (EPSB), and are being assisted by the National Center on Education and the Economy and the Prichard Committee. And as mentioned above, CPE has just awarded three half-million dollar grants, one each to three of our universities to develop new clinical training sites in conjunction with public schools in and around the communities adjacent to the campuses selected. These sites will be developed consistent with the new recommendations recently published by the Council of Chief State School Officers and the new Schools of Education accrediting organization, the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation, or CAEP.  The new clinical sites are also aligned with the larger strategies being developed by the collaborative effort described above.

What would you say is Kentucky’s greatest challenge when it comes to teacher and administrator preparation?

Our greatest challenge is attracting and retaining highly skilled people serving in these vital positions in every school building across the commonwealth. Doing this will compel rethinking who and how we license people, how we induct them into the profession, how career advancement is managed, how professional development is created and provided, and how teachers and principals are compensated.

The council also is involved in teacher professional development (PD). Can you talk about that involvement and how the changes will improve teacher effectiveness and student achievement?

Professional development is a critical part of supporting teachers, and through them, the students we are to serve.  A great deal of data, described in national surveys and in KDE’s Teaching, Empowering, Leading and Learning (TELL) Survey, confirms that much of the professional development currently being provided is of limited value to teachers. We are working closely with the commissioner to understand the type of PD teachers need, and with our campuses to encourage them to create the type of materials and programs that are responsive to what teachers and administrators are telling us they need, and utilizing the very best practices to assure whatever is created is both relevant and effective. In addition, we will be working with local school boards and school-based councils to share with them the materials and programs that will be made available so they understand how to best expend these limited resources.

What are the other challenges relative to college and career readiness and teacher preparation do you see CPE working on in the future?

Our plate is rather full right now, but building recruiting efforts to attract high performing young people into teaching, restructuring our training to better meet the needs of teachers as described in the TELL Survey, and engaging the whole faculty at our universities (not just our teacher education faculty) in the process of training superb teachers for our public schools is central to our efforts.

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