Education Commissioner Terry Holliday

Education Commissioner Terry Holliday

Education Commissioner Terry Holliday recently had a column published in the Cincinnati Enquirer  in which he discusses the link between Senate Bill 1 and the Kentucky Core Academic Standards. This is a longer version of that column.

Our goal in Kentucky is to provide students in our state with a world class education that will prepare them for college, careers and to compete in a global economy.

This has been the focus since the passage of Senate Bill 1 (2009), which charged the Kentucky Department of Education in collaboration with the Council on Postsecondary Education to “plan and implement a comprehensive process for revising the academic content standards in reading, language arts including writing, mathematics, science, social studies, arts and humanities and practical living skills/career studies.” Senate Bill 1 serves as the driving force behind Kentucky’s involvement with the Common Core State Standards initiative.

The Kentucky Board of Education, Education Professional Standards Board and the Council for Postsecondary Education voted to implement the Common Core State Standards in 2010. They were adopted as the Kentucky Core Academic Standards. And, for the past two years Kentucky teachers have faithfully implemented the standards in an effort to best prepare Kentucky’s students for life after high school.

Has it been easy? Not always. Lack of funding for new textbooks, teacher professional development and intervention services for students struggling to fill the knowledge gap created by the new standards has been a challenge for the state and local school districts. Additionally, as expected, student test scores are lower than they were under the old standards; a dip that I feel confident will right itself as students and teachers become more familiar with the expectations of the new standards.

Despite these challenges, however, the Kentucky Core Academic Standards present overwhelming positives for our students and state:

  1. The standards are aligned with college- and career-readiness expectations. Prior to the Kentucky Core Academic Standards, only a third of Kentucky students were ready for college or to enter the workforce. For students who did go to college, the majority had to spend money on remedial courses that didn’t count toward graduation for things they should have learned in high school. Many students quit postsecondary education before completing a degree or certificate. Today, with the Kentucky Core Academic Standards taught in all Kentucky classrooms, the percentage of students are deemed ready for college/career has increased from 34 percent to 47 percent.
  2. The Kentucky Core Academic Standards provide students, parents and teachers a consistent, clear understanding of the minimum of what students are expected to learn and be able to do at every grade level. Clearer standards help students better understand what is expected of them and allow for more self-directed learning.
  3. The Kentucky Core Academic Standards are more rigorous than prior standards. Rather than learning facts and regurgitating them on a test, the standards require students to think more critically and be able to apply their knowledge and solve problems. They also are benchmarked to international standards, and develop 21st-century job skills such as communication, collaboration, creativity and innovation, critical thinking, and problem solving – the skills that employers say are needed for today’s jobs.
  4. The Kentucky Core Academic Standards recognize local control over curriculum and teaching methods. The standards dictate “what” students need to learn, not “how” the standards will be reached. Districts establish their own curriculum allowing for continued flexibility and creativity. Teachers devise lesson plans and choose the instructional resources and methods that best meet students’ needs.
  5. The standards were developed through an open, inclusive state-led process based on the best research available with input from higher education, employers, teachers, content experts and the public including those from Kentucky. Teachers were involved to ensure that the standards are practical for the classroom. The federal government was not involved in the development of the standards.
  6. The development and adoption of the Common Core State Standards was an efficient and economical way to meet the mandates of Senate Bill 1 (2009). With no money appropriated for Kentucky to develop its own standards, we joined with 47 other states in an initiative spearheaded by the National Governor’s Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers to develop new more rigorous standards in English/language arts and mathematics.
  7. Kentucky has made the standards its own. Teams from every district have come together to break down the standards into classroom learning targets that define outcomes and guide instruction.
  8. Common standards are good for teachers. Common standards allow for more focused pre-service and professional development and help assure that what is taught is aligned with assessments including formative, summative and benchmarking.

Senate Bill 1 set out a clear mandate for Kentucky education that called for the development of more rigorous standards that will better prepare our students to succeed after graduation. We have successfully implemented those new standards in reading, writing and arithmetic in every classroom in Kentucky, and have begun to reap the reward of those changes. Having been involved in the process of the standards development and the implementation of Senate Bill 1, I am convinced that this is the right thing for Kentucky students, the business community and for the economic future of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.