Education Commissioner Terry Holliday

Education Commissioner Terry Holliday

With more jobs requiring at least some postsecondary education or training, college and career readiness is driving major changes that are taking root in Kentucky public schools.

The implementation of more rigorous academic standards that are aligned with the concepts and 21st century skills students need to know to succeed in college and the workplace plays an important role in that shift. But just making classes harder, so to speak, isn’t the only step we need to take to truly transform education in Kentucky.

Research shows that if schools create safe, supportive, and respectful learning environments that personalize young people’s learning experiences, they can help them achieve more academic success and better prepare them for life after high school. A comprehensive advising program that includes both academic and non-academic programs and for which responsibility is shared through a school is key to making this happen.

A strong advising program can result in reduced retention rates, decreased truancy and behavioral issues, increased test scores and graduation rates, as well as improved interpersonal relationships and greater college/career readiness.

Kentucky’s Advising Toolkit and Transition Toolkit can help districts create comprehensive advising programs.

The state also offers several other advising resources that can lead to greater student success.

The Persistence to Graduation Tool (PtGT) provides critical data to help schools identify specific students in need of additional intervention and support. By using this tool, educators will know, with reasonable assurance, whether a student is off-track for graduation and why. Based on this data, schools can provide targeted interventions aligned to the needs of the individual student that will have the greatest impact in getting them back on track for graduation.

Operation Preparation is designed to engage students and prompt them to start planning for their future after graduation. During the 2011-12 school year, its inaugural year, Operation Preparation reached thousands of students across the state and started many of them seriously thinking about their futures and the role education plays in reaching their life goals.

Operation Preparation 2013 promises to be even better, with the entire month of March set aside for the event. Schools may plan advising sessions and activities for a single day, week or throughout the entire month.

The Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) also is joining forces with Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson to add a college advising program called Closed the Deal to the Operation Preparation initiative.

This month, Close the Deal– which is modeled after a successful Jefferson County program – is expanding to three high schools in Bullitt, Campbell and Lawrence counties. We expect additional schools will join the program in the coming years.

Close the Deal is designed to create a strong college culture in schools with low college-going rates; support high school counselors to more effectively assist students in college application and enrollment; and engage the business and postsecondary communities by providing guidance and resources to assist students in establishing and meeting postsecondary goals.

I hope districts and schools will take advantage of all the advising resources KDE offers as they work to create and improve their advising programs to meet the needs of ALL students.  Engaging students and making them partners in planning their future will not only increase their chances of successfully transitioning to adult life, but it will also improve the culture and academic outcomes of our schools.