Due thanks as we prepare to unleash Unbridled Learning in Kentucky

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“Teaching is not a lost art, but the regard for it is a lost tradition.”
Jacques Barzun
Cultural historian

Education Commissioner Terry Holliday
Education Commissioner Terry Holliday

Despite the many laudatory quotes and uplifting essays about the teaching profession, some might say teachers don’t seem to get the respect they deserve. Many of you would probably say you’re overworked, underpaid and definitely underappreciated by students, parents and sometimes even school administrators.

Yet, Kentucky public school teachers work tirelessly day in and day out to ensure every child is proficient and prepared for success –that every student ultimately graduates college/career-ready. I know. I’ve seen you at work in classrooms across the commonwealth.

What you do every day is nothing short of miraculous. You set high expectations for yourselves and your students; you care for them; you nurture their minds; you challenge them to learn, grow and be more than they probably ever thought they could be. In doing so, you are not only shaping your students’ futures, but the future of the entire state of Kentucky.

So, during this Teacher Appreciation Week (May 2-6), I would like to express my gratitude for all you do. I appreciate your hard work, your professionalism and most of all your dedication to your students. Thank you.

“Teachers are expected to reach unattainable goals with inadequate tools.
The miracle is that at times they accomplish this impossible task.”
Haim Ginott
Child psychologist (1922-1973)

I will admit that, at times, we ask our teachers and school leaders to perform necessary but what seem like nearly impossible tasks, especially during tight budget times like these. That’s one reason we wanted to hear directly from you about your working conditions. The Teaching, Empowering, Leading and Learning (TELL) Kentucky survey that you took anonymously back in March was a chance for your voice to be heard.

Because we expect every principal and teacher to create and sustain positive conditions for learning in every classroom, we needed your honest evaluation of the conditions under which you do your job. And you responded.

Teachers and principals set a record for first-time response rates on similar surveys conducted in other states. More than 42,000 out of 52,000 eligible Kentucky educators participated –an 80 percent response rate.

Preliminary statewide TELL Kentucky data indicate educators are positive about their teaching conditions.

  • 94 percent say school leadership facilitates using data to improve student learning.
  • 92 percent agree that teachers are encouraged to try new things to improve instruction.
  • 80 percent concur that the faculty and leadership have a shared vision.

However, some concerns also emerged. For example, in the area of Time:

  • Only 51 percent think that efforts are made to minimize the amount of routine paperwork teachers are required to do.
  • 63 percent believe that teachers have sufficient instructional time to meet the needs of all students.
  • 68 percent agree that teachers are protected from duties that interfere with their essential role of educating students.

Schools and districts with a participation rate of 50 percent or more have received their results and will use them to guide school improvement efforts. The Kentucky Board of Education will review the preliminary findings at its June meeting for potential state policy and budget impacts.

“The more you prepare outside class, the less you perspire in class.
The less you perspire in class, the more you inspire the class.”
Ho Boon Tiong
Teacher and education consultant

With implementation of the Kentucky Core Academic Standards (KCAS) just a few months away, some of you may be feeling a bit anxious. Rest assured our teacher and leader networks have been hard at work breaking down the new standards into easily understood learning targets and identifying aligned instructional resources.

This will all come together in the Continuous Instructional Improvement Technology System (CIITS), an online tool that you will have at your fingertips prior to the start of the 2011-12 school year. The networks are evaluating it now and will be providing feedback on how we can make it better for you.

CIITS will start out with the new English/language arts and mathematics standards, deconstructed standards, pacing guides and aligned high-quality instructional resources. The Program of Studies and Core Content for Assessment 4.1 will be included for those subjects for which new standards are still in development. Newly aligned Kentucky Early Childhood Standards (KYECS) and American Association of School Librarians (AASL) Library Media Standards will also be accessible through CIITS.

Once the system in fully deployed, as you prepare for a lesson, you can use CIITS to identify the standard and learning target, select exemplary lesson/unit plans, choose student learning resources, access assessment data and determine a course of instruction for each student to move forward based on his/her individual need. When it is complete, CIITS will also provide professional learning and school improvement resources.

The Continuous Instructional Improvement Technology System is a comprehensive, dynamic, and evolving tool to support excellent teaching and learning in Kentucky classrooms. Look for more about CIITS and training opportunities this summer before school starts.

We’ll be asking a lot of teachers in the coming months, but with the data from the TELL survey and the resources of CIITS, you’ll have the support you need to be successful. Your work is crucial to maintaining Kentucky’s forward momentum – you are the standard-bearers for Unbridled Learning in this state, and I am grateful for your experience and abilities.

(To comment on this topic, contact Commissioner Holliday at terry.holliday@education.ky.gov.)

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