This time of year has always been a period of excitement for me. As a former high school band director, this was time spent in preparation for the upcoming football and marching band season. As a principal, it was time for focusing staff on instruction and expectations for the school year. As a superintendent, it was time to make certain that all systems were functioning smoothly and that funding was in place to meet the needs of our students and teachers.

Education Commissioner Terry Holliday

Education Commissioner Terry Holliday

This year, I am experiencing excitement about the implementation of the Kentucky Unbridled Learning – College/Career Readiness for ALL plan. This plan is an outgrowth of 2009’s Senate Bill 1 and the Governor’s Transforming Education in Kentucky Task Force. 

Unbridled Learning – College/Career Readiness for ALL has a metric of increasing the percentage of college/career-ready graduates of Kentucky high schools from the current 34 percent to 67 percent by 2015. We have been communicating this goal and strategies to reach this goal for months. During the 2011-12 school year, we will begin to see the strategies implemented and begin to see if they yield the results for our students.

As I speak to educators, parents and community members across the Commonwealth, I focus on the three key components of Unbridled Learning. During the 2011-12 school year, we are implementing the Kentucky Common Core Standards in English/language arts and mathematics. On August 1, we launched an online software program – the Continuous Instructional Improvement Technology System (CIITS) — that provides educators with full access to the standards and resources to support the standards. This software and the resources were developed and aligned based on the work of more than 1,500 educators from Kentucky schools who are part of our Leadership Networks.

Also, we are now providing training and resources for educators in Kentucky that support the new assessments, which are based on the new standards. Several weeks ago, we had educators from across Kentucky working on understanding of the new end-of-course assessments in English II, Algebra II, U.S. History and Biology. Many teachers will receive training and support over the coming months to gain understanding of the new assessments in grades 3-8 and high school courses.

Finally, the excitement comes from a new accountability model that goes into place this school year. While we are hoping that Kentucky will be granted flexibility to replace federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) accountability with the Kentucky accountability model, we will be implementing the Kentucky model either way.

My start of the school year excitement has not waned as I enter my 40th year of education. If anything, this year is even more exciting. Why? I work with great teachers and leaders across Kentucky who are excited about the future of our children. While the work ahead will be exhausting, and there are never enough resources to do the work, Kentucky educators are dedicated to a singular focus of success for ALL children. Thank you for your hard work, and I wish you much success in the year ahead.